Orphaned Striped Skunk Siblings

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Well known for their pungent scent, striped skunks are not just stinky but also have important environmental roles! Some fun facts about striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) include their consumption of wasps and venomous rattlesnakes. Skunks are immune to venomous snake bites and rattlesnakes often end up on the menu. Although skunks have poor eyesight, they have an excellent sense of smell and great hearing.

Skunks are quite beneficial little critters. They are omnivorous and feed on a variety of animals and plants helping to disperse seeds. They will help keep your garden free of insects such as mice, voles, beetles, larvae, wasps, and crickets. As scavengers, skunks will seek out animal carcasses which helps keep the ecosystem free from carrion and the diseases that can potentially spread to our waterways and soil from the decaying animal matter. Birds of prey, such as the great horned owl, are major predators of the skunk mostly because they don’t have a great sense of smell leaving them completely unaffected by the skunk’s main defense.

Skunks will typically have a single litter of four to six babies. Baby skunks are called ‘kits’! They are born without fur coats, but the striped pattern is often visible before the fur grows in. Skunks will typically den in other animals burrows such as woodchucks’ or gopher tortoises’, hollow logs, wood piles, or stone walls. They may even take refuge under a man-made shed or structures. The kits will remain in the den for about eight weeks.

On September 2, two striped skunk siblings (21-4744, 4745) were admitted after being found outside their den in Cape Coral. The finder reported not seeing the mother for over two days. Upon admittance to the clinic, both the boy and girl skunk were dehydrated and thin leading veterinarians to believe they had been orphaned. As with any baby animal, these kits need six or more feedings throughout the day and need to be taught how to suckle. They have been appropriately gaining weight and doing well overall. These skunklings will stay at CROW until they are old enough to be released back to the wild.

Baby animals, especially wildlife, require intensive and involved care. We always urge finders to bring injured, orphaned, or sick wildlife to a certified wildlife rehabber or licensed facility so they can receive proper care and limited human interaction leading them to be successful in the wild.

Every year wildlife hospitals, like the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel, are flooded with young animals that are abducted away from their parents by well-intentioned people who believe these babies have been orphaned. In fact, wild animals are very devoted to the care of their young and human interference is rarely warranted.

While it is possible that a mother might be unable to return to a nest due to illness, injury, or death; it is more likely that she is just away foraging for food and will return in due course, according to the natural biology for the species.

If you find a baby animal and are concerned it may need help, please call us at CROW at 239-472-3644 before trying to help. We will be happy to give you some tips on how to determine if a young animal may be truly orphaned and in need of help, or if Mother Nature has the situation under control.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (9/3-9/10):
There were 109 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including nine eastern gray squirrels, six northern raccoons, five eastern cottontails, two anhingas, three mourning doves, a red-shouldered hawk, a Florida softshell turtle, and a Florida red-bellied cooter. Recent Releases include a semipalmated plover, two gopher tortoises, a red-shouldered hawk, and a Florida box turtle. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases.

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year.

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center, 3883 Sanibel Captiva Rd.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to http://www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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