DENVER -- A sergeant with Denver Animal Protection said his department has already found 9 skunks that have tested positive for rabies so far this year, calling it a "large increase" from what officers have seen in previous years.
Denver Animal Protection said the skunks were located in southwest Denver, a majority of the cases were close to Federal Boulevard between 6th Avenue and Highway 285. Jefferson County Public Health also announced on Friday it located a rabid skunk in Lakewood.
"Because we have found such a large number of skunks in such a short period of time, in a concentrated area, we are concerned about the residents in that area and their domestic pets," said Sgt. Joshua Rolfe with Denver Animal Protection.
In 2017, Denver County recorded 12 cases of rabid skunks for the entire year. Rolfe said finding nine rabid skunks in the first few months of 2018 is "a pretty dramatic increase."
"It’s certainly a large increase from what we’ve seen previously," said Rolfe.
When asked if it's a sign that 2018 could be a bad year for rabies, Rolfe said it's too early to know.
"Only time will tell that but we are definitely going to be keeping a pretty close eye on it," said Rolfe.
Jesi Josten lives in Wheat Ridge and keeps a close eye on news about rabies. She had to go through an expensive round of rabies vaccinations after her dog killed a rabid skunk in their backyard over the summer.
"I went out and grabbed my dog’s muzzle to see if he smelled like a skunk, which is not a smart idea," said Josten. "Just because I had that moment which I touched him without gloves and he did touch the skunk, I needed to have the rabies vaccine."
Josten said the bill for her two shots of rabies vaccination at the hospital totaled $33,000. Josten said there's no doubt she'd glad she got the shots, but the hospital bill was hard to stomach.
"I just couldn’t believe how much they were," said Josten.
Now Josten warns everyone to use caution and wear gloves when touching their animals after they've been sprayed by skunks.
"Rabies is easy to catch and it can be the teeniest, tiniest bit, if it gets into your system, it will give you rabies," said Josten.
Denver Animal Protection said if people see a skunk during the day, if it's wobbling or sneezing or aggressive, those are all signs that animal could have rabies. People should call 3-1-1 if they see an animal they believe is rabid and Denver Animal Protection will remove it. Anyone who comes in contact with a skunk should contact their medical professional immediately.