Late at night a few months back we, Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, received an urgent call for help. Five tiny babies needed rescue. These rare kits had been orphaned and would not be able to survive on their own. A volunteer was dispatched to bring them in and upon arrival to the sanctuary the little stinkers stole everyone’s hearts. While we have helped hundreds of species heal and head back to the wild, this was our first time taking in eastern spotted skunks.
This litter of kits was rare due to their vulnerable conservation status, meaning that they are nearly endangered, and their population is declining. While skunks are known for their ability to defend themselves by spraying a foul-smelling liquid they are actual incredibly important for our ecosystem. They are omnivores who scavenge to help break down waste as well as hunt smaller mammals that do damage to agricultural crops such as mice. While these five were being weaned off bottles and are being introduced to solids we received a call for help from Peace River. They has also had some spotted skunk kits come in orphaned. It was decided that instead of us both trying to raise these stinkers that they be transferred to Owl’s Nest. While these two new kits were still needing to be bottle fed and housed in an incubator for warmth the other five were quickly becoming more and more strong and independent.
They were moved several times into larger and more naturalistic enclosures. A few weeks ago the older group was moved into our small raptor flight enclosure (which was vacant) while the younger pair was not far behind. The enclosure was outfitted with a lot of natural woody elements to mimic their wild habitat. Each day their diet was scattered and hidden through out their enclosure in order for them to practice their foraging skills as they prep for release. In their last week in rehab they were showing off their survival skills! Not only were they foraging and hiding like wild skunks, they were also defending themselves in true skunk fashion.
We knew then that they would be ready for release very soon. Working with local conservation partners we decided on the perfect location. Last week the older five were crated up and carted out to an undisclosed located complete with freshwater streams and pond as well as a heavily wooded area full of food options. Being creatures of the night we aimed for a late afternoon release but the skunks had other plans. With the property managers permission we chose instead to do a soft release of the skunks and left them their crate to use as shelter so that they could take their time exploring and acclimating to their new home while still having the comfort of retreating to the safety of the crate for their first wild week.
Now the younger pair is having their turn in the flight enclosure and quickly mastering the required skills for release. Soon this pair will be ready to join the first five at the same location. This is incredibly exciting for us and their species as both sets had at least one boy and one girl allowing for some genetic diversity in their population.
We greatly appreciate the cooperation of Peace River and other organizations during this case. Working together allowed us to accomplish what was best for not only these seven skunks but also for the health of this declining species.
If you find any sick, injured, or suspected orphaned wildlife we would like to remind you to give us or another permitted rehabilitator a call. We also ask that you consider making a donation to Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife so that we may continue our work to conserve and protect wildlife in the Tampa Bay Area.
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