TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - A homeowner bitten by a rabid skunk near Catalina State Park is one of the many cases in Pima County this year.
Now, the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to remind outdoor enthusiasts and pet owners to be cautious.
Last year, Arizona had 160 cases of rabies.
Pima County saw the biggest spike in the first quarter of the year with 40 cases.
So far in 2019, 20 cases total have been reported across several counties including Pima, Cochise, Santa Cruz, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Mohave and Yavapai.
The most recent incident occurred last week when Sam Harrell was raking leaves outside his home near Catalina State Park.
“It felt more like a sharp bite or electrical shock," he said. "I didn’t know what it was till I looked down there.”
He’s no stranger to seeing wildlife in the area, but said seeing the skunk was a first for him.
“This was the first time I’ve ever seen a skunk here, or anywhere around or even anywhere in Arizona,” he said.
Wildlife officials euthanized the skunk and reported it tested positive for rabies. Harrell already started receiving the series of shots needed for rabies.
The most common carriers of rabies are skunks, foxes and bats.
Mark Hart of Game and Fish said it’s not an increase in the rabid animals but in the number of people coming into contact with them this time of year.
“There could have been as much rabies in the population of wildlife as in the summer, but people aren’t being exposed to it as much,” Hart said.
Cochise County Health & Social Services wants to remind residents that domestic animals, including livestock, dogs and cats, should be vaccinated against rabies on an annual basis.
Check with a family veterinarian on the vaccination schedule for your pets and livestock. Citizens are advised to keep backyards clear of food and trash to prevent roaming wildlife from coming near their home.
People are also encouraged to avoid contact with wild animals and to report wildlife acting strangely to animal control at 520-432-9500 or the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
If a person or animal has contact with a wild animal, it is recommended they consult with a healthcare provider or veterinarian.
Rabies is a virus spread by the bite of, or contact with saliva, of an infected animal. The disease can cause serious damage to the nervous system of humans and animals.