Skunk Caught in a Dryer Vent

Who knows what this large and healthy adult skunk was seeking when he squeezed under a Mill Valley home.

Due to the lack of natural denning spaces in our urban and suburban neighborhoods, skunks will seek shelter under structures and crawl spaces, so he may have been seeking a place to rest. Skunks eat rats and mice, along with slugs, snails, insects and other undesirable garden pests, so he also may have scented something good to eat that enticed him in.

It probably wasn’t long before the skunk realized he’d made a mistake. Once inside the home, he couldn’t get back out! Apparently the homeowners had heard the sounds of an animal for a couple of days before they finally saw the skunk stuck half in and half out of their dryer vent.

Fortunately they knew to call for help.

A Marin Humane officer was dispatched to rescue the skunk and bring him to WildCare’s Wildlife Hospital. As you can see in the photos, the skunk arrived at WildCare with the vent still clamped firmly around his midsection. He had scraped off the toenails on one of his back feet, probably from scrabbling desperately against the plastic in an attempt to free himself. The skunk was exhausted, stressed and dehydrated.

Click the images to see photos from the skunk’s intake in the Wildlife Hospital.

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Upon intake at the WildCare, the exam record notes that the skunk had sprayed in the transport carrier, so he was covered in skunky smelly oil. Our Medical Staff is used to dealing with skunk spray, however, and WildCare only smelled skunky for a couple of hours. Our team anesthetized the skunk to remove the vent cover from his body and examine him for additional injuries.

The vent has a flap that allowed the skunk to get half of his body through, but wouldn’t allow him to then move backward after he discovered his (very plump!) posterior wouldn’t fit. Medical staff was able to circumvent the flap (it’s good to have opposable thumbs!), and then they were able to lift the vent cover easily over the skunk’s shoulders and head.

In this photo you can see the ischemic injuries the skunk suffered from the compression of his abdomen in the dryer vent. Photo by Melanie Piazza

The vent had left wounds and inflammation where it had constricted the abdomen (see photos), so Medical Staff cleaned the wounds and, once he recovered from the anesthesia, gave the skunk medications for pain and inflammation.

Constriction injuries like this are called ischemic injuries, and they result from restricted bloodflow. Their symptoms can take days or weeks to develop, so we needed to keep this skunk in care to watch for developing problems. Read more about ischemic injuries and how we treat them at WildCare in our latest print newsletter. Click for the PDF here and turn to page five!

Over the next couple of days Medical Staff and volunteers monitored the skunk for both ischemic and internal injuries. The wounds on his foot also developed further, and thickening tissue and pus along the abdominal wound meant Medical Staff needed to anesthetize the skunk again to properly treat his injuries. Clinic Manager Brittany sutured the toes and cleaned all the wounds (see photos below), making notes to monitor the skunk closely for infection.

The skunk should be in care for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, due to the excellent care he’s receiving in WildCare’s Wildlife Hospital, he should make a full recovery, and be able to return to the wild just in time for skunk mating season.

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Smelling skunk in your neighborhood? Don’t worry, it’s just skunk mating season!

Click to learn more about what your neighborhood skunks are getting up to in late January and early February, and how you (and your dog!) can learn to coexist with these wonderful, charismatic and helpful animals.

Questions about skunks? Concerns that a skunk may want to den under your deck or home? Call our Living with Wildlife Hotline for advice! 415-456-7283 or email


Baby skunk at WildCare. Photo by Alison Hermance

Donate now to help WildCare care for our injured skunk patients!

WildCare admits and cares for over 50 skunks a year! Skunks eat rats and mice, slugs and snails, and other garden pests, so they come into contact with people and our stuff on a regular basis. Whether they are caught in rat traps, stuck in dryer vents or orphaned when their mother got hit by a car, our skunk patients need the help only WildCare can give

Click to donate now!