Procedures questioned following rabid skunk attack

Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Mar 26, 2014 - 02:51 PM

 

Photo: These cows were exposed to a rabid skunk last week. Concerns about the county’s response to the incident were addressed during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Mathews County Board of Supervisors. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

These cows were exposed to a rabid skunk last week. Concerns about the county’s response to the incident were addressed during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Mathews County Board of Supervisors. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

 

Eighty-one-year-old Joice Davis of Mathews got a scare last week, and she hopes her experience will bring about some changes in the county’s animal control policies. Mathews County’s Animal Control Officer Jean Roberts assured the board of supervisors Tuesday night that changes are coming.

As Davis pulled up in the driveway of her farm across the road from Mathews High School around 6 p.m. last Tuesday, she noticed that the four cattle she owns were acting strangely. Three of them were watching something near the hay and the fourth one was moving briskly. Then she noticed a creature on the ground “hot on the heels of my cows.” It looked like “a motorized bedroom shoe,” she said, and the cows were moving to get out of its way “but it never stopped; it kept moving and moving.”

Davis quickly realized it was a skunk and, having seen a rabid animal before, thought it probably had rabies, so she called 911 to get help. But help never came. The sheriff’s dispatcher told her that animal control wasn’t answering, said Davis, so she set about handling the problem the only other way she knew—she called family and friends.

Her daughter, who lives with Davis, came home quickly, and a nephew was right behind her with his gun. Meanwhile, the skunk had chased the cows all the way from the south side of the pasture to the east side. As her nephew drew a bead on the skunk, the skunk began chasing the bull toward the barn, and Davis’s nephew was able to get a clear shot and kill the creature.

Davis said she called the sheriff’s dispatcher once again to find out what she needed to do with the dead animal, but was told that animal control still wasn’t available. Davis then set about calling “anybody and everybody I could call to get information,” from Roberts’s boss, County Administrator Mindy Moran, to Riverside Walter Reed Hospital, where she hoped to talk to an emergency room doctor and find out how to handle the creature. No one was available.

“I can’t tell you how many people I called,” said Davis.

Finally, nearly an hour later, Davis received a call from Assistant Animal Warden E.T. Forrest, who told her to put the skunk securely in a plastic bag and take it to the health department.

“I doubted what he said and insisted he come,” said Davis, “but he called and said his supervisor had told him he didn’t have to pick up the animal. She would pick it up Wednesday afternoon.”