For the Love of Skunks

3-1By Pam De Fouw

Over the past several years, our population of striped skunks has been diminishing.  As growth and development continues, the skunk has less and less adequate habitat in which to live and traverse.  The extension and widening of roads makes it truly difficult to pass from one boundary to the next.  Striped skunks are relatively slow moving mammals with poor eyesight, relying on their acute sense of smell and hearing to detect both predator and prey, leaving them ill equipped to deal with modern vehicular traffic.   Ironically, many of our neighborhoods’ last interactions with skunks involved road kill incidents, as all but the smell is forgotten.

Thanks to our valued supporters, the Wildlife Center of Venice was able to rescue and raise 8 striped skunks last year, for their eventual return to the wild.  Our long term goal is to help species like the striped skunk retain its historic foothold in our community, and hopefully someday to reconnect small isolated pocket populations within our rescue range through the use of a wildlife corridor system.  The majority of our striped skunks, and spotted skunks for that matter, come from either the Englewood area or the Myakka City region, with very limited connectivity between these small populations.  In addition to loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation, skunks are often persecuted due to their inherent odor, for fear of their defensive spray, or their reputation as a rabies vector species (a rare carrier in Florida).  As someone that has worked with many skunks, both young and adult, I’d say this reputation is undeserved, as they tend to keep their distance when allowed and spray only as a last resort in most cases.


So yes, skunks can and do spray but only as a means of protection.  They are mostly nocturnal, but also may be crepuscular (meaning active in early mornings and evenings).  As with most mammals, the females are very protective of their young and do not usually venture far from them.  This is one major reason the WCV is usually against the trapping and relocation of such species, as it leaves young to starve and adults to unfamiliar turf.

The beneficial fact about skunks is that they eat large quantities of insects and grubs, rodents and moles and even snakes, which I know are so popular in residential developments.  Remember, these little critters, unlikely to cause conflict, will wage war on these other pests, free of charge.  Also one should remember that many species’ populations have dramatically declined, like the striped skunk, with little notice, not having the protections afforded more notable species through the endangered species act.   With your help, we continue to fight for our patients, our community and our biodiversity.

A Swift Lift: A Rescue Story

by Peg Magee

The call came to the Wildlife Center dispatcher on a Friday, from Susanne, in Gran Paradiso, reporting an adult osprey with a broken wing. While it could not y, it had made its way from the location where it was rst spotted, to a mound of dirt several unpaved streets over in an area under construction in the new development. Amazing that the injured bird was discovered!

When I arrived at the community to rescue the bird, Susanne and her husband met me at the entrance, and escorted me to the spot where they had last seen the injured bird. No osprey on the mound! Looking around the area, I noticed a construction trench, with a conduit pipe in it, the deepest part being square, and about 2 1⁄2 feet deep. And there was our osprey, trapped, and unable to y or climb out.

At this point, we had attracted a small gathering of interested parties, encouraging and wanting to help. I believed my best option was to climb down into the trench with a short-handled net to contain and secure the bird, and a towel to then wrap around his head and wings when I could remove the net. It worked! My only problem was how to get myself out; holding the animal, I could not use my hands to bolster myself up.

At that moment a construction engineer walked over, and immediately, seeing the predicament, instructed me to “ just turn around, ma’am, with your back to me, and I will lift you right up by your elbows.” “Really?” “Yup. Just turn around.” I did, and he did— right up and out—me and osprey together! I told him triumphantly that he made my day! My helpful hero was both clever, and strong!

Yes, the wing was broken, osprey transported to our faithful vet Dr. Don Swerida, wing pinned, and hope for the best. He thanks all of you who cared!