Skunk Babies in Care at WildCare
Five baby skunks arrived at the Wildlife Hospital after being rescued from a freeway on-ramp! Fortunately a driver saw the five little skunks, tails high, marching up the on-ramp and managed to catch them before they got into oncoming traffic.
Skunks at this age are much too young to be on their own without Mom. Something likely happened to these babies’ mother (many skunks are hit by cars), and they stayed in their den until desperation drove them out. These babies were in pretty good condition, so they must not have been alone long, but many other orphans arrive at WildCare in much worse shape.
After being rescued and brought to WildCare, these five babies received a full exam in the Wildlife Hospital along with hydrating subcutaneous fluids. Each baby also got a taste of dextrose to keep his or her blood sugar levels high. It must taste somewhat good, as evidenced by the little skunk’s reaction in the video above. Once stable, all of these skunks went into Foster Care with trained WildCare volunteers.
What do baby skunks smell like and can they spray?
When they are about three weeks old, a baby skunk’s scent glands have developed enough to produce the familiar smell of skunk. Young skunks like these are capable of spraying, but not with the quantity or the velocity of an adult skunk. Although WildCare staff and volunteers do occasionally get sprayed, these youngsters generally don’t spray their caregivers, except sometimes by accident when startled.
At this age, the little ones have a noticeable, but not unpleasant, musky scent, vaguely reminiscent of dark chocolate.
Over the next couple of months these babies will learn how to use their distinctive defense mechanism.
It takes some skill to effectively aim a blinding jet of scent right into the face of a predator, so adolescent skunks take practice shots during play to improve their aim.
Remember that skunks don’t actually want to spray you (or your dog!) In fact, skunks give lots of warning before actually spraying. Skunks of any age only have a limited amount of spray available at any given time and, once used, the supply needs to be replenished which can leave the animal defenseless. The hops, tail flags and stomping these baby skunks exhibit is the play version of the warning an adult skunk will give you if you come too close. Back away and let him move on, and he won’t need to unleash that eye-watering stink.
In the video below you can watch a group of Foster Care babies tumbling, wrestling and stomping at each other… this is play-fighting that will give them the skills they need to frighten off predators as adult skunks. WildCare currently has an astonishing 37 orphaned skunks in care, which is close to a record number.
Baby Skunks in Care
It’s a WildCare Foster Care volunteer with a very special domestic arrangement that is able to care for these babies until they are old enough for release! With 37 baby skunks currently in care, however, many members of our Squirrel, Raccoon and Opossum Foster Care Teams have taken on baby skunks for the first time. All the volunteers agree, it has been a wonderful experience raising these charismatic babies to be healthy and wild.
These little omnivores have to be taught what adult skunks eat and where to find it. Because of their dining preferences, skunks actually make great neighbors. They eat all the things in your yard you’d just as soon be rid of, including slugs, snails, mice and rats. A resident skunk living under your garage will effectively keep your garden free of these pests.
Raising baby skunks to be successful foragers requires hiding foods like defrosted mice and fish around their enclosure for them to find, and giving them places to dig for mealworms and chase crickets. As with all of WildCare’s patients, contact with these babies is kept to a minimum to allow them to grow up with a healthy wariness of humans.
Skunk babies stay in care for two months or more before returning to the wild.
In the video below, this baby skunk (one of several that came in dehydrated after being found wandering out of their den… something must have happened to their mother) is being introduced to an unfamiliar (and apparently rather frightening!) dandelion plant. Introducing them to different stimuli is key to their eventual survival in the wild. He’s demonstrating excellent skunk stomping behavior toward the unknown menace.
Watching your foster babies grow up and learn the skills they’ll need to survive in the wild is one of the best parts about being a WildCare Foster Care volunteer. It’s amazing how quickly they learn, and you can actually watch them thinking and problem-solving as their skills develop.
We love this video below. The littlest skunk desperately wants to be in the bin with his brother and sister, digging in the dirt for mealworms. However, he can’t seem to climb his way in. Watch him try for a few seconds, and then see the moment when he suddenly remembers that there’s a ramp on the far end that allows easy access into the tray. Very soon he’s in with his siblings, digging with his perfectly-adapted claws for the insects he likes so much.
Finally, in the video below you can watch another group of youngsters play-fighting and wrestling. Of course watching these videos will make people go “awww,” and it may even make you think that a skunk might be a good pet. But WildCare asks you to please let wild animals be wild!
These youngsters may look playful now, but eventually they will grow to be adult skunks, with all their wild instincts in place. Skunks in captive situations are very destructive (these animals are built to dig, and dig they will!) and they simply aren’t engineered to be cuddly pets like cats or dogs. Think of all the desperate cats and dogs in shelters, and please make space in your home for an animal that truly needs human companionship to survive. Wildlife like skunks belong outside (eating the slugs and snails in your garden!) WildCare is absolutely committed to raising these babies to be healthy, wild skunks, ready for release.
Wildlife Rescue Guide
When the five baby skunks were spotted by the driver on the side of the freeway on-ramp, it was clear that they needed to be rescued. Not only were they heading for certain death on the highway, these youngsters were too young to be fending for themselves. We’re so very glad the driver knew about WildCare.
But sometimes it’s hard to tell if a baby animal needs rescue. For more extensive information to help you determine if a wild animal needs help, click to read our Wildlife Rescue Guide!
Help us feed our baby skunks!
These special babies require a wide variety of foods to grow up healthy, and these items are expensive!