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Rabid Skunks Bite Two in Mass.

October 21, 1999

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) _ Two Worcester-area people have been bit by rabid skunks in the past week as a burgeoning population of the normally mild-mannered creatures search for dens for the winter.

A toddler was bit on the wrist 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 outside his van. Officials say the man was covered with skunk bites, but the bites are not considered the cause of his death.

``There’s a lot of skunks out there,″ said Susan Langlois, wildlife biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. A higher population of skunks means a higher incidence of rabies, but it’s still unusual for two skunks to attack two people within 10 miles of each other in the space of a week, she said.

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, 50, was found dead one week ago 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 in the family’s yard.

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