Meet little Hershey, a tiny, sweet boy only 6 months old. We found Hershey through another skunk owner who had contacted me earlier this week about an ad for a skunk that she had seen posted on Craig’s List. It is illegal in Florida to sell Class III, captive wildlife without the proper permits but unscrupulous people seem to find this an easy way to make a buck at the animal’s expense. I searched for the ad and found that the owner had posted pictures showing a young male skunk in horrific condition. While it is sadly not uncommon to take in adult rescues in poor condition, this was the worst case of neglect of a junior skunk that I have seen in years.
Several people contacted the owner in the hope of reasoning with him to turn the skunk over to skunk rescue. A volunteer was able to meet up with the owner, come to terms (ransom), and delivered little Hershey last Wednesday. I got the phone call to fill the bath tub as they approached my home. Hershey arrived drenched in his own urine and smelled worse than awful. The skin on his belly and inside his legs was bright red and inflamed. He was removed from his carrier and placed into the bath tub. From his reaction, this was his first bath! I gently washed him twice, which turned the water red by the time I finished. Even though he must have been in pain, he never tried to bite me. After drying him, I applied medicine to his skin.
The previous owner mentioned that Hershey had come from a local pet store. I am familiar with this store and they are committed to doing an excellent job on educating potential buyers. Each skunk comes with a care booklet that obviously was disregarded. At the age of 6 months, this little boy’s most basic needs had been completely neglected. According to the previous owner, Hershey never received veterinary care of any kind. No vaccine to protect him from distemper, and never de-wormed. He obviously has not been fed correctly, as what should have been the white fur of his stripes, is bright orange. What should have been silky brown fur, is dull and matted. This pitiful baby skunk has spent his short life in the filthy, 30in by 12in, rabbit hutch seen in the background of the pictures! Wire bottom cages are not suitable for skunks or other animals with a plantigrade stance. They will cause damage to the feet, and hip and knee joints over time. We are hoping he is young enough to recover fully.
Anyone fortunate enough to raise a baby skunk, knows they are beautiful, joyful creatures. They entertain their families with constant posturing that includes stomping of the front feet, flashing eyes, and much flaring of their plume like tails. Contrast this with Hershey, whose eyes were dull, his gait is unstable and wobbly as he acclimates to walking on solid ground again, and his pitiful tail dragging behind him with the fur that was scalded with urine and rubbed off by the cage.
Hershey was obviously overdue for veterinary care so we got him in as soon as possible. We are fortunate to have access to Veterinarians who are well trained in the care of skunks in South Florida. Our Vet was shocked by Hershey’s condition and said I hope you are prosecuting! Hershey is being treated for a bacterial infection. He has started the de-worming process. His skin is almost healed and the mats are out of his fur. We are hoping his hunched gait is due to an upset stomach from the infection and not damage from the wire bottom cage. Once he is stronger, he can be neutered and vaccinated. Then he will be ready to move on to a new life with someone who will love and care for him. While time and supportive care will hopefully take care of his physical issues, Hershey was deprived not only physically, but emotionally. He has missed developing the human/pet bond. He never got to be held and comforted as the scared kit he would have been when he was first taken home. For some reason this precious little boy was left outside in the heat instead of being inside, cherished by his new family.
There is absolutely no excuse for anyone who allowed this to happen! Whatever the previous owner’s expectations were regarding a pet skunk, there were many options all more humane than the one chosen. Even if the young man who owned Hershey did not know better, a responsible adult should have intervened on behalf of this innocent creature.