Fixin’ a Hole where the Skunk gets in, and stop Her from Going in to Den… (or a Raccoon)

by Lucinda Adamson
Assistant Center Manager

Now is the time to inspect and maintain your home and yard to ensure that, come spring, you won’t have any unwanted wild animals raising their families in your space.

Every year Humboldt Wildlife Care Center raises orphaned skunks and raccoons, most of whom need not have been orphaned. Typically the mother was trapped and relocated when homeowners heard or saw activity in the spring, not realizing they were separating a young family and leaving 3-5 infants alone to die unless their screams for help are heard and they are rescued in time.

Wild mothers look for places that are warm, dark, quiet and protected to give birth and raise their babies. Once the babies are old enough (2-3months) they will follow their mothers out at night and the den will be abandoned until next spring. In urban environments, Raccoons may den under the house, often in the void around the bathtub, or in the attic where the entrance is hard to access and easy to defend from predators. Skunks often den under sheds or woodpiles

Walk around your property pay careful attention to these areas:

  • Foundation vents: make sure all vents are covered with metal screen. Gently push on all vents to ensure the screen is firmly attached. Any missing screens, broken screens, or rusty screens should be replaced.
  • Signs of digging:  especially around foundation, sheds, and porches
  • Mobile home or porch skirting: Make sure there are no missing boards or openings that will allow access to animals. Even small holes should be patched.
  • Attic vents and roof overhangs: Make sure vents are screened and all openings are securely covered.
  • Chimney: Make sure the chimney cap didn’t blow off in the winter storms. Bats and swifts roost or nest in chimneys and other animals could fall in and become trapped.
  • Roof: Trim back any tree branches that may provide roof access to raccoons. Never trim branches during nesting season, though!

Securing these access points will prevent wild mothers from using your home as their nursery. Since these dens are only used to raise young, winter is the best time to make any necessary repairs because it is unlikely that any animals will be trapped inside. If you do suspect an animal is actively using an opening call us at HWCC (707) 822-8839, so we can help determine when it is safe to close the opening.

A little time spent maintaining your home now can help prevent a lot of suffering for your wild neighbors come spring.

An orphaned Raccoon is released after 4 months in care. It’s better for everyone if Mama raises her own babies.

If raccoons or skunks do end up denning under your home, take heart in knowing they won’t be there for long. If you are able to tolerate their presence for a few months they will be on their way before long.

If you are not able to tolerate their presence, do NOT set a trap and do NOT call a pest control company. It is possible to convince the mother to move her babies to another den away from your home and we can help humanely resolve the situation in a manner that satisfies you and the animals. Call us and we will be happy to walk you through the steps that will work best for your situation.

As always, thank you! Your support not only helps us provide excellent care for our wild neighbors in need, but also helps us prevent orphanings and injuries in the first place! Promoting co-existence with our wild neighbors is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing.


Skunk’s Got White Stripes

That don’t mean she’s the road to town
Skunk’s got white stripes
That don’t mean she’s the road to town
Just trying to find her lover
Everybody’s got to run her down

Every year the same thrilling tale that Nature has told since time immemorial ends in tragedy for many female Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis). In January here in Humboldt (as late as end of February for less temperate areas) female skunks begin to look for a mate. Their evenings are no longer spent watching over any remaining youngsters from the previous year. No longer content to saunter the night time world looking for food and whatever sparks her curiosity, now she is driven. The force of Spring renewal is powerful thing, sending her across fields and forests and very unfortunately, across roads too.

Three days ago, we admitted our first adult female skunk of 2018, who’d likely been hit by a car. Paralyzed and barely conscious, a quick, humane end was the only appropriate care. We rarely admit a skunk who’s been hit by a car simply because they rarely live through the impact. Instead, each January we see a sudden increase in skunks, dead and left to rot by the sides of our roads, from US 101 to the small two lane black tops that criss-cross the agricultural industry of the bottom lands. Samoa Blvd, from Arcata through Manila and south to North Jetty, on a these mid-winter days might have as many as four skunks freshly killed to be seen on the morning commute.

Accidents happen. Many of us can tell a story of hitting a bird, or a squirrel, or a raccoon without warning, with no chance to avoid the impact. It’s a terrible thing. The finality of it – and in the moment, the realized cost – this Swainson’s Thrush had crossed thousands of miles to be here to raise this year’s young, but no, instead, he’s lodged in the bumper of a car that had been speeding along with coffee creamer and a few other things that had been needed at the store. The casual slaughter of billions of wild animals each year by automobile is just another tragedy woven through the fabric of our daily lives.

In the last 12 months, how many Raccoons between Arcata and Manila, between Ferndale and Fernbridge, between Bayside and Freshwater, between Redding and Sacramento were struck and killed and left to bloat and decay by the side of the road, or worse, lure another animal, a Turkey Vulture perhaps, into the same trap. It’s a measure of how far below our concern these lives are, that we can tolerate their dead bodies lying on the margins of our thoroughfares decomposing where they were killed.

It must be the case that many animals are killed simply because we don’t see them, because we never see them. We don’t include them in our ideas about what might happen. We race through the dark as if the world was closed and nothing is real but the road, our headlights, our thoughts and the dark cavern of the sky. And the Road Runner startled by our engine’s roar dashes from the sage into our trajectory, smashed in the night by the predator who never eats – to be mourned if at all, only in the form of young who may have been orphaned to die, and the great sorrow of the Earth which is too large to hear – the Earth who reels in the blood of her freshest wounds and heals as she can from wounds long inflicted – strip mines, factory trawlers, pesticides sprayed across the plains, rivers choked…

There are so many wounds in the world today. Mudslides have killed at least 18 people in Santa Barbara County. In California alone, people in the last year have suffered one catastrophic calamity after another, in a world where greater disaster seems to always loom on the near horizon. It seems that there is little we can do about these wounds on this scale. But it’s simply not true.

Against these tragedies, we have a remedy. This remedy may not lower the temperature but will make the world where we are more beautiful, more just. Dr. King said that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice, and we can do part of that bending right here, right now, in our tangible world and literally where the rubber meets the road. We can slow down and open our eyes. We can anticipate that we are not alone, free to tread where we will, to pay no regard to who is left broken or killed in our wake.We can find the joy in the nocturnal wild and search for their glowing eyes. We can stop teaching our sons violence as a form of play, violence as a right of passage – to respect the other lives, minds, hearts who they encounter. Far too many patients we’ve admitted were witnessed being run down intentionally, almost always a young man at the wheel. We can teach our sons now what it means to value the soul of another.

The world is made in moments and in each moment we can remember our first loyalty – to Earth and the wild. We can learn to undo our overly built confidence in the machinery of our times and re-align with our wild neighbors, our fellow travelers through this life on Earth, or kith, our kin; -our measured distance surmountable in a leap of recognition, not faith. We can give safe passage to this skunk here now, who is crossing the road, so that she might find who she needs, so that the world is refreshed, so that her young come to be.