May 29th Patients: Baby Skunks

These little skunks came in on Monday to NYWRC. Wes loves rehabbing skunks, and has a great success rate in releasing them happily back into the wild.

In New York, skunks are one of our “Rabies Vector Species” and require an extra permit, including training and vaccinations, with special housing, to rehabilitate. Rabies Vector Species also include raccoons and bats. Other states may include foxes, coyotes, woodchucks (“groundhogs”), opossums, and more.

The Striped Skunk is, of course, one of our most recognizable wild animals in North America. It is clever and adaptable to having humans as neighbors, and we all know of it’s primary defense mechanism (especially those of us who have overly-curious dogs).

The word “skunk” is, originally, of Native American (Iroquoian/Algonquian) origin (probably the Abenaki word seganku). A slang term for skunks, which early settlers to our shores used, is “polecat.”

There are quite a few subspecies of Striped Skunk, the most common in our area being the Eastern Skunk.

Skunks mate, on average, from February to April, with babies born from mid-May to June. Litters, blind and sparsely-furred at birth, usually consist of from 2 to 12 kits, and they stay with their mother (who raises the litter alone) for about 2 1/2 months.

Contrary to popular opinion, baby skunks can, indeed, spray, though their musky odor develops as they get a bit older. In other words, a young skunk of weaning age will spray you — but you won’t smell as bad as if you were hit by an adult.

 

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