Skunk Stuck in Bait Box

Watch WildCare’s veterinarian, Dr. Sorem cut the skunk free from the plastic bait box trapping her head!
Trouble viewing the video? Click here to watch it on WildCare’s YouTube channel.

In WildCare’s Wildlife Hospital we see animals with their heads stuck in the strangest things. It is always heartbreaking to see an animal come in entangled in a six-pack ring, a Yoplait yogurt cup or fishing line.

But this skunk took getting her head stuck to a whole new level! This large, healthy animal got her head firmly trapped in the entrance hole of a large plastic rat poison bait box!

As a supporter of WildCare, you know how deadly rat poisons can be to the wild animals that eat rodents.

WildCare’s extensive rodenticide testing program proves without a doubt that animals that eat poisoned rodents get poisoned themselves. In fact, 76% of our tested wildlife patients have some level of rat poison in their blood.

But this adult skunk showed us another way that using rat poisons can be dangerous!

When her rescuers spotted her, the skunk had fallen into a ditch with the enormous box flapping and crashing around her head as she thrashed violently trying to remove it. A skunk doesn’t have opposable thumbs, and it is very difficult for a skunk to loop a claw under the edge of something caught around her neck or over her head. This was a large skunk, and the entrance hole was small. It’s surprising that the animal was even able to get her head inside.

Recognizing that this was a full-grown adult skunk in real danger, the Mill Valley residents who spotted her called the Marin Humane officer on duty, who promptly came, netted the skunk and box together, and placed her gently in his transport vehicle for the trip to WildCare.

The box was very large and heavy! It’s very lucky this skunk was spotted and rescued when she was. Photo by Alison Hermance

Once she arrived at WildCare, removing the heavy plastic box was the first order of business. WildCare’s veterinarian, Dr. Sorem, with the assistance of the officer, restrained the skunk in a towel and pulled out heavy clippers to cut the plastic that trapped the skunk’s head.

That plastic is heavy-duty stuff! Exhausted from her ordeal, the skunk stayed surprisingly quiet as Dr. Sorem chipped out small pieces of plastic, slowly getting through to where the skunk’s neck was held.

A final hand-wrenching snip, and the plastic separated. The skunk pulled herself free and Dr. Sorem gently bundled her into a box to be carried into the Wildlife Hospital.

Once on the exam table, Dr. Sorem and Medical Staff exclaimed over how large and healthy this skunk was. She weighed in at almost eight pounds! The initial exam showed the expected significant abrasions and swelling around the skunk’s neck, but fortunately the skin wasn’t broken and there were no open wounds. No other injuries were found, so the Wildlife Hospital volunteers prepared an enclosure for the skunk and provided a healthy meal for her.

The skunk’s medical record notes that she could likely be able to return back to the wild soon.

Three days later, the skunk is doing well. Look how big she is! Photo by Alison Hermance

However, the next morning’s cage cleaning revealed an ominous sign… during the night the skunk had defecated some bright turquoise granular material. Rat poison! Obviously the skunk had eaten some of the bait she had encountered inside the bait box.

Medical Staff promptly started her on a treatment of Vitamin K, the antidote to anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning. If diagnosed and treated quickly, an animal can recover from exposure to these deadly poisons.

As of this writing, the skunk is doing well and eating everything she’s given. She’s gotten very feisty, and has even sprayed a couple of Wildlife Hospital volunteers (a hazard our volunteers sometimes face… but helping these amazing animals is worth it! Click here to learn more about becoming a WildCare Wildlife Hospital Volunteer!)

A few more days of Vitamin K treatment and a final exam to determine that all the abrasions and swelling from the animal’s neck have healed, and this skunk will be able to return to the wild.


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This skunk’s story serves to illustrate the dangers of rat poisons to non-target (and target!) animals. This was a “regulation” bait box, and the bait was “properly” installed in it, but this skunk still managed to eat it, and to get herself stuck.

WildCare advocates for not using rat poisons but rather removing attractants to control rodents (see humane and effective rat-proofing suggestions below). If lethal elimination is still necessary, never use glue or sticky traps! And remember, if using snap traps, they should only be used indoors!

Some pest control companies will put snap traps outside within regulation boxes like the box that trapped this skunk, but it is all too common for non-target wildlife (like skunks, lizards, songbirds, snakes, opossums and raccoons) to be injured by outdoor traps. Instead of using poison or traps, please remove attractants to deter rodents outdoors!

The best method of rodent control is prevention. Take away what is attracting the rodents, and you will no longer have a rodent problem.

Here are some suggestions to humanely and effectively control rodents on your property without poisons:

1. Eliminate food sources: Close and seal garbage bin lids. Sweep up spilled bird seed nightly. Do not feed pets outdoors. Pick up fallen fruit. Rodents are on your property because it offers food, water or shelter, and food is often the biggest draw. A little proactive action on your part to remove attractive food sources will cause rodents to move on.

2. Get rid of cover like ivy. Rodents want to feel protected from the eyes of predators, and they will use the leaves of ivy or other spreading plants as safe passage from one area of your yard to another. Exposing these passageways by clearing out ivy and low-growing plants makes your yard much less inviting to rodents. Removing protective cover especially around food sources (like bird feeders) will be a big deterrent to rodents.

3. Remove potential rodent homes like piles of yard debris, trash, construction waste and junk piles. Even wood piles can be good homes for rodents. Raising wood piles and stuff stored in your garage 12″ or more off the ground makes these areas less accessible and less inviting to rodents.

4. Exclude rodents from your home. Seal openings 1/4-inch or larger around the outside of your house with metal, concrete, or Stuf-fit Copper Mesh Wool, which can be found online or at hardware stores.

5. Empty accessible water sources to avoid attracting thirsty rodents.

Learn more about humanely (and effectively!) controlling rodents and about WildCare’s work to eliminate the use of rat poisons here.