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Maui workers catch a whiff of stinky stowaway

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    A striped skunk was captured by state inspectors after workers detected it while unloading a container in Kahului, Maui.

Workers at a Maui trucking company found a live skunk while unloading a container of ceramic tiles last week.

When the workers in Kahului smelled an odor and thought they saw a critter on Aug. 30 in the container, they quickly closed it and called agricultural inspectors at the state Department of Agriculture’s Maui Plant Quarantine Branch, state officials announced Wednesday.

After setting two traps in the container overnight, inspectors found the stowaway — a striped skunk weighing about 5 pounds — in one of the traps Friday morning. The skunk was sent to Oahu Tuesday. The skunk was euthanized to test it for rabies, said Janelle Saneishi, spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department. Killing the skunk is part of the protocol for mammals with unknown origins that may carry rabies, she said. The results of the rabies test are expected in a few days.

“We appreciate the quick reaction of the trucking crew in containing the animal and contacting HDOA inspectors,” Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, acting chairwoman of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, said in a news release. “Had the animal escaped from the container, it would have been a much larger problem and we are grateful for their awareness and cooperation.”

In February, stevedores at Pier 1 at Honolulu Harbor captured another skunk — with its head stuck in a yogurt cup — the first recorded capture of a live skunk in Hawaii.

Skunks can be found on the mainland, Canada, Mexico and elsewhere, but are prohibited in Hawaii along with various other animals because they pose a threat to the environment. They are considered a primary carrier of the rabies virus, which can be fatal if one is bitten.

Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. and one of the few places globally that is rabies free, officials said. Preventing stowaway animals from getting free is critical so humans and other animals do not come into contact with them.

To report the sighting of illegal animals or invasive species, call the state’s toll-free hotline, 643-7378.

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