CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — Illinois wildlife experts say there has been a sharp increase in the state’s skunk population.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Bob Bluett tells The Northwest Herald that the state’s skunk index rose 46 percent from February 2009 to January 2010. The index measures a population’s relative size rather than an exact number. Bluett says there’s been an increase in the skunk index eight out of the last ten years.

Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox

Statistics show nearly 6,750 skunks were removed from inhabited areas of northeastern Illinois in 2010.

Bluett says the main concern is an increased risk of rabies. Experts say that means pet owners should make sure their animals are vaccinated. Experts also say residents can avoid attracting skunks to yards by not feeding their pets outdoors.