The Tompkins County Health Department is looking for a woman who was bitten by a skunk on Tuesday after she reportedly tried to pet or feed the animal.

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An alert from the Tompkins County Health Department described the woman as middle aged or older, wearing a long, hood sweater and carrying a backpack. A resident witnessed the skunk bite the woman and urged her to contact the health department as wild animal bites can transmit rabies. It was one of two reported bites in the downtown Ithaca area with reports of two skunks approaching and following people around the area.

This is another friendly reminder not to try to pet wild animals. While there are plenty of them that may turn out to be friendly, it's impossible to know if any given animal will act aggressively towards you or carry a disease.

And trying to pet a skunk? What possible reason could someone have for trying to pet a skunk? They're best known for spraying horrible chemicals on anything that gets too close to them. Worst case, you get bitten by the animal and have to worry about whether or not it was rabid. Best case, you smell like sulfur for the rest of the day. There is no situation in which a person pets a wild skunk and comes out on the winning side of the interaction.

Of course skunks aren't the only wild animal that can transmit rabies, so your general rule of thumb should be to steer clear of animals that you don't know and contact your local health department if you think you may have been exposed to rabies.

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