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February 25, 2013

Spotted Skunk Rehabbed at Fund for Animals Wildlife Center

Shy skunk released after a three-week stay

  • Snuggling in donated furs, the little skunk spent three weeks recovering at the FFAWC. Gina Taylor/The HSUS

  • Under the careful watch of volunteer Lauren Perry, the skunk took stock of his new surroundings. Mirjam Schippers/The HSUS

  • With the carrier door opened, the cautious skunk took his first steps toward freedom. Mirjam Schippers/The HSUS

  • With a flick of his bushy tail, the skunk scurried off to a life in the wild. Mirjam Schippers/The HSUS

While many rural and suburban dwellers are familiar with the sight of a striped skunk, fewer are aware of the rarely seen, diminutive spotted skunk.

Although just as common as their striped cousins, spotted skunks are much more reclusive. Spotting one is a rarity, even for wildlife rehabilitators. 

So when the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center received a tiny spotted skunk in January, it was something of a treat.

From peril to protection

The little skunk came to us after someone spotted him struggling to stay afloat inside a water-filled trash can. He was quickly scooped up and brought to the FFAWC, where an exam revealed him to be hypothermic, lethargic, and suffering from nerve damage to his front left leg. 

Doctor's orders? Three weeks of rest in a quiet space, where he could regain his strength and his leg could heal.

Snuggled in his nest of donated fur coats, the patient made good progress, and in mid-February, FFAWC veterinarians deemed him ready for release. 

The big release day

On the afternoon of his release date, the skunk was very curious about the small dark box that was placed in front of him and easily lumbered inside. Once inside his transport box, the skunk rode for the next 30 minutes to his release site.

"Because skunks are most active at dusk and dawn, we timed his release to happen just as the sun was low in the sky," says FFAWC Director Ali Crumpacker. "We made sure there was still enough sunlight for us to hike safely, but that it was close enough to nightfall for the skunk to feel safe." 

The skunk's releasers found a dense area of brush, well away from the usual hiking trails. Once the door was opened, the newly freed skunk strutted out, with tail on high alert.

With a bit of luck, no one was sprayed, and the little spotted skunk scampered off into the brush just as the sun set.

Fun facts about spotted skunks

  • Spotted skunks are much smaller than striped skunks; they are more like a ferret- or weasel-sized creature with lots of white spots.
  • If you can tolerate their smell, they are great animals with whom to share your property, as they eat insects and rodents and help keep the neighborhood free of fallen fruit debris.
  • Spotted skunks have an acrobatic way of warning any predators: They will often raise up on their forelegs in a handstand position to display a warning before spraying.
  • The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif., is operated by The Humane Society of the United States in partnership with The Fund for Animals, providing care for nearly 500 wild animals annually.

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