The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) is smaller and more slender than its more familiar cousin, the striped skunk. Sporting a weasellike body shape, the spotted skunk averages 12 to 14 inches in length and one to three pounds in weight.
This species of skunk has four stripes on its back that are broken up in pattern, giving it a “spotted” appearance and its name sake. This look is usually coupled with a white patch on its forehead and a white tip on its tail.
Eastern spotted skunks, like all skunks, have well-developed anal glands that can discharge a musky odor if they are threatened. The “nipple” on the glands allows the skunk to be accurate on its aim. Two baby eastern spotted skunks were admitted to CROW’s wildlife hospital on July 13. They were found at a solar panel plant, where it was reported their mother had been accidentally killed by shifting solar panels. The two skunks were originally taken to the Peace River Wildlife Center before being transferred to CROW for long-term care.
“Peace River is capable of long-term care and they do it very well,” said CROW Rehabilitation Manager Breanna Frankel. “The spotted skunks were transferred into our care because we have additional staffing and experience that they felt would benefit the babies.”
At the time of their arrival, the skunks were found to be in good health and were still at an age that they had not yet opened their eyes. Within a week of care at CROW, both skunks opened their eyes and were doing great at suckling a specialized milk formula from a nipple. “Our formula is specially designed with a medium fat and protein content to allow healthy weight gain while not disrupting their digestive system,” said Frankel. “It is always important to remember that you should never try to raise a wild animal on your own. In most places it is illegal to raise wildlife without the appropriate license.”
By the second week, rehabilitation staff began the weaning process to transition the skunks to solid food. “The weaning process is a nerveracking time for us because the skunk kits begin to transition from a full milk diet to their juvenile diet of whole foods as well as milk. During that time, their weights have to be watched very closely to ensure they are not losing weight and still getting all the appropriate calories,” explained Frankel. “As they begin to eat more whole foods on their own, we decrease the number of milk feeds until they are fully transitioned. Our two kits have successfully transitioned off the milk formula and are eating entirely on their own now.”
The young patients will remain at CROW until they are fully vetted. “The skunks are currently about six weeks old and have a lot of growing to do. They will not be released until they are four to five months of age,” said Frankel. “By four months old, they are fully grown and during that time their mother teaches them how to find food. We will replicate that process by providing a wide variety of natural foods that they would encounter in the wild to ensure their success.” When ready for release, the skunks will be returned to an area close to where they were found.
“Ideally, for any of our patients, we send them back to where they came from. These babies were found in Alva amidst a solar plant that unfortunately killed their mother,” said Frankel. “We will get them back to that general area, but we will find a relatively uninhabited plot of land for release so they do not easily encounter people or find themselves in unfortunate circumstances like their mother.”
CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.