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You Know What Stinks? A Family Torn Apart

Know your humane solutions: precautionary tale of baby skunks left alone when mother is trapped, taken to the wild

The Humane Society of the United States / The Fund for Animals

  • One of the two orphaned skunks in her enclosure at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif. The HSUS

  • Skunks are both urban and rural dwellers. The HSUS

  • Most of the baby skunks we raise could have been raised by their mothers. The HSUS

by Ali Crumpacker

I’ll tell you what stinks; having your mother kidnapped and taken away to the mysterious “wild.”

When a California homeowner recently hired a trapper to remove a skunk denning under her home, no one stopped to check for babies. For a while, the two young skunks stayed in their den, cold and scared. As their tummies grew tight from hunger, they started to peep and squeal. Finally, three days after their mama was shipped off to the wild, they wandered out from the security of their den into the homeowner's yard, vulnerable to dogs and other predators. 

When she spotted the babies, the homeowner who had hired the trapper contacted us at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center to help them, and we will care for them until they are strong enough to fend for themselves. But their mother skunk would have been better at raising them.

A precautionary tale

To the surprise of many, a city skunk cannot survive well in the rural outback. She doesn’t know how to hunt or locate fast moving prey. She is used to foraging among trash bins and tracking down easy-to-catch insects and rodents under your house. She knows how to evade a barking dog, but not a rattlesnake or great horned owl.

Skunks like urban living. They thrive in the urban setting and trapping one to take her “back to the wild” is only assuring that she will struggle to survive. She doesn't know where to find food or water. Other animals have already claimed all the good hiding spots.

And in this sad case of one mama skunk who happened to have two babies still back in the city, she is going to exhaust her energy searching for her offspring.

What to do with wild neighbors

If only they had called the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif. first. We could have told her how to encourage the mama to move her babies along to a better place.

It's hard to know exactly what to do when you find yourself living with wild neighbors. This homeowner, like most people, didn’t want to hurt the skunk under her house; she thought she was doing the right thing—but it turns out that trapping is rarely the answer. Some basic Humane Exclusion techniques would have kept the whole family together, and the skunks would have found a better place to take up residence. Instead we are raising two orphans with a missing mother who will never know that her babies are okay.

[See this video of our Humane Wildlife Services helping another homeowner solve their skunk problem while keeping the family together.]

The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center has received more than 50 orphaned skunks in the last two years, most of whom have similar stories. These are the first two of the season. Use our resources below to solve conflicts with the critters in your area, as well as find out what to do if you find injured or orphaned animals.


Found an Injured or Orphaned Animal?

Spring is baby season. Learn how (and when) to help your wild animal neighbors.

Keep Wildlife Out

This season, combine gutter cleaning with inspection to keep wildlife from moving into your house.

Use our house diagram infographic to locate and fix potential problem spots in your house.

Products to help resolve problems.

Choosing a Wildlife Control Company

Seven tips for selecting a humane wildlife control company.

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