When you think of skunks--a strong odor probably comes to mind.
But some of those black and white animals are carrying a deadly disease.
Ag Reporter Sarah Gustin has the story.
(Mary Graner / Rancher) "We get skunks occasionally. You can always tell when spring is coming because you get that first scent of skunk."
They are not just a stinky animal, they can be deadly.
(Alicia Lepp / ND Dept of Health) "Once you start developing symptoms, it's most likely a death sentence."
8 rabid animals have been spotted across North Dakota so far this year--that compares to 74 cases last year.
(Alicia Lepp / ND Dept of Health)"This is pretty typical for this time of year as the weather thaws out, these animals are becoming more active. We see rabid animals statewide. It gets reported sporadically statewide, so those two reports fairly close together in the Bismarck area, it's probably more of a coincidence."
Just one year a ago a rabid skunk wandered into Kenny and Mary Graner's farm yard here south of Mandan---the family dog had a run-in with it, so they had to euthanize the pet.
(Mary Graner / Rancher) "We have four kids running around. You can't afford to have a cat that got rabies through a skunk.
(Sarah Gustin / firstname.lastname@example.org) "Graner's farm lies near the Missouri River and Highway 1806, 2 major attracting points for skunks."
(Mary Graner / Rancher) "We have trapped them in our irrigated pipe, but we also find some trails going under some of the old farm buildings. Especially if they have a wood floor and they aren't setting on a footing or anything like that."
That experience changed the way chores are down around here--the new farm dog Sage and the barn cats are now fed in the morning.
(Mary Graner / Rancher) "We never feed at night, because skunks are nocturnal. They will come and they will feed out of the same dog dish and cat dish. We try to feed our pets during the day so the skunks don't come to the yard. Because if they are licking out of the same bowl, they can also have that same salvia to salvia contact."
Graner says while they haven't seen any skunks yet this year--by the smell they know they are close.
(Mary Graner / Rancher) "We know that there is a skunk, or skunks around because with the skunks, the smell is always first, like the old saying goes. But we've smelled the skunks, but we have not physically seen them."
If you see a skunk that is exhibiting suspicious behavior, such as being out during the day, staggering, or being aggressive, you are asked to call the Department of Health.