bundle of babies. a litter of 8 - 2 week old infants.
This was Meggie (center top w/ wide stripes.) and her 7 big brothers. I named her after the main character of the novel/movie The Thorn Birds, who also lived with all brothers. Look for her in other photos.
behaviors, methods, feeding and aging orphans
It's not always easy to know if or when we should intervene with nature to save babies. Many species of wildlife such as birds, rabbits and deer are often "kidnapped" by well meaning folks thinking the baby is orphaned, when actually the mother is watching from nearby cover. This is not necessarily the case with skunks.
A mother skunk will stay with her babies and leave only to forage for food. She will forage at any time of day or night to maintain her energy requirements for her litter. This is what gets many, many skunks killed every year. When people see a skunk during the day they think it might have rabies, so they will either shoot it or trap it. Before eliminating the skunk take notice of how she is behaving. Is she digging in the dirt for bugs? Eating from your pets dish? This is normal, healthy behavior for a hungry mother. Please think twice before having her removed by any method. The majority of skunks that you will see during the day are only hungry mothers. See my page on rabies to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of rabies to know the difference between a healthy animal and a sick one.
Skunk kittens will stay with their mother throughout the summer and into the fall in best case scenarios. Often the females will stay together through the winter for warmth. This is almost always in a different den than the summer den. The males tend to wander off on their own and lead a somewhat solitary life. When the kittens are about 5 weeks old they will begin to follow mom out of the den to learn how to forage. Mom stays close by her kits and makes efforts to keep everyone together. What this means is that if you find one or more baby or toddler sized skunks all alone, and mom is no where in sight, then it is a good chance that they need rescue. Depending on the circumstances it may be necessary to rescue those babies on the spot.
In cases of a mom hit by a car in the road and the babies are hanging around her, those babies need to be picked up right away. If you have a cardboard box or pet carrier with you, it helps to have something to put them in. Any kind of sack, tote bag or backpack will do if you have nothing else. A man could remove his t-shirt and tie a knot in the end to make a sack if he is willing to sacrifice it. If the orphans are toddler age, eyes open and walking around, you should wear some sort of protective glove if you have them, even gardening or winter gloves will do. If you happen to carry a fishing net around with you that would be ideal. For those of you who don't carry around nets, you can also try using a towel or small blanket to toss over them, then scoop them up and put into the box immediately. The smaller the babies are the easier this will be. You may be able to just pick them up. The more calm and casual you are around them the less frightened they will be. Talk softly to them, reassure them that you are their friend. Of course this is a complicated and dangerous situation when on or near a busy road. Depending on the road you are on, it might help to block the lane of traffic with your car using your flashers. However, do not do this on a busy roadway where you might be putting yourself in danger. Never risk your life for a skunks, but then I probably don't have to tell anyone that. You may need to call the police or animal control for help in a roadway rescue. The problem with that is by the time they get there, if they come at all, the kits could already be killed as well. Use your best judgment as to what needs to be done for the situation. It may help to drag the dead mother off of the road if possible. Use some napkins to grab her tail and drag her to the ditch. This will draw the babies to her and off the road.
If you find one or more babies of any age in a yard then it is in need of rescue. If you are uncertain, watch the situation for half an hour, but only if it is safe to leave the baby as is and you can keep an eye on it. If the mother has not appeared for the baby within 30 minutes, rescue it. Often it is not safe to leave the baby for an observation period. It could be in danger of predators such as cats, dogs, birds, cars, ants, heat stroke and dehydration. Fireants can do a lot of damage to baby animals, even a few bites are harmful and can make an infant ill. If you find a baby with ants on it rescue it right away and remove all ants. Apply a 1% hydrocortisone cream to bites. Secure orphan in a safe box with warm bedding.
If a cat or dog brings up a baby skunk then it needs rescue.
If babies are uncovered at a construction site and mom was killed they need to be rescued. Depending on the site situation, it may be best to rescue the babies even if mom didn't get killed to get them out of certain future harm. Use good judgment.
Better Safe Than Sorry - Save It , Then Surrender It
sweet Cottonball. This pretty little girl was cared for improperly for over a week before surrender. She did not live.
I shouldn't have to say that anytime mom is obviously dead then the babies need rescue. This is not always obvious however. Maybe mom got hit by a car down the road, yet the babies show up in your yard. Maybe mom got trapped by a neighbor 4 doors down and picked up by animal control. Maybe a predator got mom so there is no evidence of her dead body. Unless there is a witness or evidence of why mom might be moving her litter, and may be on her way back to pick up the lost kids, it is safe to assume any kits left alone need to be rescued.
How to Catch Baby Skunks and What to Feed Them
To catch toddlers or juveniles you can try putting a well cooked, chopped up fine, scrambled egg on a paper plate and place it inside a pet carrier. Leave a few egg crumbs outside the carrier door to lure them. Sit behind the carrier being very still and quiet. Sitting behind it clears the way for them to approach, and they will not see you when you move in to close the door. Even if they see you as they approach they will be more interested in the food. They may fluff their tail but will calm down quickly if you do not move. Be close enough to quietly move up and close the door when they go in. This is the easiest and safest way to catch orphans. You are not likely to get sprayed doing this. Toddlers get frightened easily so they use their tails to act tough. They almost never spray so long as the situation is kept calm. Be sure to put your dogs and cats up while you are attempting this.
You can use canned cat food if it is all you have, however, can cat food can cause intestinal upset in skunks. The same goes for any kind of canned pet foods. Do not feed the dry/moist packaged foods either, as these are worst of all for causing intestinal problems. Most skunks do not even like these type of foods anyway unless they are starving or it's all they are given. And I have never seen a skunk eat tuna fish, though I hear some do. An egg is going to be the most appealing, satisfying and healthful for them. You may also give a spoon full of plain yogurt.
cuddle buddies These two were single orphans of different ages, but found comfort in one another. apx. 4 and 5 weeks old.
Introductions. Transition day for the house kits to move to the barn, where they meet the older kit. 6 and 7 weeks old.
How to Age Babies
Babies who do not have their eyes open yet are called infants. They will open their eyes between 2 - 4 weeks, typically closer to the 4 week mark if healthy, sooner if stressed and ill. When they begin to walk a little bit they are toddlers. Those who are walking good and may have been following mom around for more than a few days are juveniles, at 6 - 10 weeks old. Juveniles are the most common age to be found and rescued. A juvenile of 8 weeks old or older is probably capable of surviving on its own IF it is in a safe and healthy environment. If you are unsure if it needs rescue it is better to rescue than to leave it and wonder. Skunk kits 10 weeks old to about 20 weeks are teenagers and do not need rescue unless it is a bad situation. They are capable of living on their own by this age. Skunks grow very quickly, and are sexually mature around 9 months old. They will mate and reproduce before turning one year of age.
above Marshall at 1, 2, and 3 weeks old
Sawyer 4 weeks old
playful 6 weeks old