May 20, 2011
How to Raise 28 Baby Skunks
Find out what it takes to raise orphaned skunks at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif.
by Julie Hauserman
The spring baby animal explosion continues at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif., where 28 baby skunks are currently in residence.
Like other spring babies, the skunks end up at the wildlife center because they have lost their mothers—either to collisions with cars or because another creature—often a dog—has chased her away.
Teaching skunks to survive
Most of the skunks at the wildlife center are still young enough to be in the indoor nursery. The smallest are fed a special formula that mimics mother’s milk. When they get a bit bigger, they start eating mashed fruits, vegetables and insects.
When they grow a little more, they are moved outdoors to a special “pre-release” enclosure.
“That’s when we hide all their food items, so they can learn to forage and dig—skills they will need to survive once they are released,” says Wildlife Center Director Ali Crumpacker.
Most times, the skunk kits can be released into the wild after about 45 days. As always, the Wildlife Center tries to release animals near the places where they were found.
Skunks: good to have around
Skunks are able to thrive in residential areas, building their dens under sheds and woodpiles. They help keep yards clean of fallen fruits and insects.
“They are good to have around,” Crumpacker says, “if you don’t mind the occasional smell.”
The smell of success
Ah, the smell. Everybody at the Wildlife Center knows all about the smell—especially during the busy spring season.
“No, “Crumpacker says, “there is no trick to not getting sprayed. Move slowly and calmly, and you can usually avoid it. But we get sprayed at least once a day.
“Skunks are born with the oil glands that produce the famous stink, but they have to learn how to work those muscles and practice to learn how to spray their targets effectively.
“I guess that’s part of their wild rehab program—making sure they can spray us!”