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Rabid Skunks Bite Two in Mass.

October 21, 1999

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) _ Two people have been bitten by rabid skunks in the past week as the normally mild-mannered creatures bed down for the winter.

A toddler was bitten as he played in his yard in Auburn, and a 50-year-old drifter who went after a skunk with a baseball bat in Westboro was found dead, covered with skunk bites. Officials said the bites are not considered the cause of his death.

A higher population of skunks means a higher incidence of rabies, said Susan Langlois, wildlife biologist for the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Still, she called the attacks unusual.

Two consecutive mild winters and an abundant supply of rodents, which skunks eat, account for the rise in the skunk population, said Dr. Michael McGuill, chief veterinarian for the state Department of Health.

Robert Dignard was found dead outside the van where he lived.

A skunk believed responsible for the bites on his body was killed and tested positive for rabies, but the bites are not believed to have caused his death, McGuill said.

In Auburn, Kimberly Riley and her two children were undergoing medical treatment after her 21-month-old son was bitten on the wrist and scratched by a rabid skunk Sunday.

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