The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) has experienced an influx of orphaned baby skunks, known as kits, admitted to the facility this season.
Michelle Suttie, development and communications co-ordinator with AIWC, said the 45 kits in their care as of June 29 are the result of property owners trapping and removing or killing the mother, leaving the babies orphaned.
“I think (people) do that because of fear,” she said. “They’re worried about getting sprayed… (and) feel that they’re going to solve the problem by trapping and or killing mom.
“What they’re really doing is putting more pressures on rehab centres to take in these skunk kits.”
With the early and warm spring, Suttie said kits are coming earlier than previous years.
According to Suttie, a major misconception the public has about skunks is that the animal is going to spray or bite them as its first line of defense.
“Skunks are very non-confrontational with humans,” Suttie said. “They want to be away from you as much as you want to be away from them.”
Since it takes a skunk about 10 days to build up its spray, she said it would only be used as a last effort.
When placed in an uncomfortable situation, Suttie said a skunk would give off signs like stamping its feet, hissing, raising its tail and charging towards a person before releasing its spray.
“They’re going to try and let you know that you’re too close and to back off before they do anything else,” she said.
Skunks are also nocturnal creatures, Suttie said, and will use the darkness to hunt and forage for food. Because of this, many people don’t even realize they are cohabiting with skunks.
“It’s very rare we would even have that interaction with them anyway because of the time of day that they eat,” Suttie said.
Though removing a skunk only makes room for another skunk to move in, there are tips Suttie recommended to avoid attracting skunks.
If a household feeds dogs or cats outside, Suttie said to ensure it is something that is done in the daytime and food is brought back inside during the evening.
Using heavy plastic or metal garbage bins will help stop attractive odours from escaping, she said, while keeping barbecue grills clean and stored inside is also important.
Making sure a home is well lit, especially with motion detecting lights, will prevent a skunk from wandering into your yard, Suttie said.
“Skunks don’t like that bright light coming on,” she said. “It would be bothersome to them if every move they made a light went on.”
In all, Suttie said skunks are friendly neighbours that are easy to cohabitate with.
As skunks eat all sorts of insects likes wasps and deter other rodents, Suttie said they are there to help out and mind their own business.
Unlike other wildlife that leave their young for long periods of time to hunt, Suttie said a mother skunk is usually always close to its kits.
She encouraged anyone who has seen skunk kits alone for a few hours to contact AIWC because the odds are the babies have been orphaned.
“(Mom) would be pretty close by, so that’s when it would be a cause for concern,” Suttie said.
She urges residents to call AIWC at 403-946-2361, if they find any injured or orphaned wildlife.