U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

January 2007


Published in Proceedings of the 12th Wildlife Damage Management Conference (D.L. Nolte, W.M. Arjo, D.H. Stalman, Eds). 2007.


Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are one of the most important reservoirs of wildlife rabies on the Great Plains of North America. During a skunk rabies epizootic in a previously rabies-free area of northwestern Wyoming, we studied the spread of rabies from the index case occurring in 1988 until the Shoshone River epizootic ended in 1993. All specimens were sent to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory for Fluorescent Antibody Testing for rabies. The goal of federal, state, county, and local agencies was to address the public's fear about the health and safety of humans and animals. Following several rabid skunk attacks reported to authorities and recounted in local newspapers, a more proactive and responsive approach was sought by the public. As a result, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wyoming Wildlife Services program began, in cooperation with other state and local offices, a rabies monitoring and control program in 1990. A scientist from the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) in 1991 was the first to employ global positioning satellites (GPS) for identifying rabid skunk capture locations. In 1992, an epidemiologist from NWRC was the first to utilize a “geographic information system” (GIS) using geographic hydrology to analyze the spread of skunk rabies. This paper presents an overview of this first use of GPS/GIS that combined rabid skunk locations, geographic hydrology, and time to better understand the epizootic’s movements along the Shoshone River.