As the landscape in Newtown and the surrounding cities continues to change, wild animals will be affected and try to adapt as best as possible to their new surroundings. This can mean a wide variety of wildlife will venture into areas they have never been to – backyards, trails, and busy roads – as they seek shelter or food.
Residents have close encounters so often that it is not uncommon for people to share photos of a bear examining their bird feeder or a bobcat traveling across an unfenced garden. Many also call the authorities to report wildlife that has been injured or accidentally poisoned by the roadside.
Summertime also means that many animals are more visible when out and about to gather food for their growing families.
In a perfect world, animals would know the limits of what land is preserved for them and what is inhabited by humans, but the reality is that these creatures are only doing their best to survive.
In this miniseries The Newtown Bee will consult animal experts to explain how to safely assist these animals remotely and what to do if you meet them in person.
The eastern striped skunk is the most common species of skunk in Connecticut and is known for its fluffy black fur. It also has a distinguishable white stripe that extends from the center of the forehead to the tail. The strip usually splits into two strips on the back.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) describes east-striped skunks with “a small head, small eyes, and a pointed snout. Their short legs and flat-footed gait make them waddle when they walk. Sharp teeth and long claws enable them to dig into earth or grass and tear apart rotten tree trunks in search of food. “
Skunks eat a hodgepodge of food, from insects and small mammals to plants and garbage.
As a result, they frequently visit people’s yards in search of leftover food from garbage cans that are not fully secured. They are also known to dig for larvae in lawns and to eat turtle or bird eggs on the ground.
Because skunks are primarily nocturnal, they are most active at night. But you can also be out and about during the day. Seeing them during the day doesn’t mean they are mad or that something is wrong with them. In spring they are more active during the day when they are looking for food for their babies.
Between late April and early June, skunks give birth to an average of six babies who are born blind and helpless. Babies’ eyes do not open until they are three weeks old and they only venture out with their mother from around seven weeks old. At this age they can spray.
What to do when spraying
Skunks belong to the mustelid family and produce a strong-smelling liquid from scent glands. Skunks spray the sticky, yellow liquid from glands on the side of their rectum as a defense mechanism when they feel provoked.
You can spray up to ten feet or more. However, before spraying, they usually stamp their feet and arch their tails as a warning.
“When faced with a skunk in this position, it is best to take a slow, calm retreat. A skunk’s spray is usually directed at the eyes and can cause temporary blindness and nausea. Rinsing the eyes with water helps restore vision, ”reports DEEP.
People often use tomato juice or diluted vinegar solutions to get rid of the odor from people, pets, and clothes.
If a pet is sprayed, DEEP recommends making a “skunk odor solution” from common household ingredients: “One liter of 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap. Mix the solution only when necessary. Soak your pet completely in the solution (do not get it in their eyes) and rinse them thoroughly with clean water. Your dog’s fur may have a slight, temporary discoloration (due to the peroxide). “
Dr. Emily Andersen, owner of ComfortABLE Critters Veterinary Care PLLC, says it’s pretty rare to be contacted about a skunk being sprayed by a skunk. Affair.”
However, in cases where a pet is sprayed on the face, especially the eyes and nose, pets may need to see a veterinarian.
“I would definitely recommend immediate medical treatment if they are sprayed in the eyes or if you notice them rubbing or squinting their eyes,” said Dr. Andersen.
In these cases, there may be inflammation or infection of the eyes or skin that needs an eye ointment or topical skin medication to dissolve it.
Dr. Andersen emphasizes: “Please never use eye medication without the direct supervision of a veterinarian!”
Because skunks are rabies vectors, a pet should receive immediate medical attention if there is any concern that it has been bitten.
To avoid health and safety issues caused by a pet being sprayed or bitten by a skunk, Dr. in a fenced garden) have a good memory and come when they are called. “
Aside from being sprayed, another common scenario people face with skunks is that they can unknowingly wander into garages.
Wildlife in Crisis, a nonprofit nonprofit that cares for more than 5,000 injured and orphaned wildlife annually, recommends turning off all lights when a skunk wanders into a garage. Then make a trail out of cheese or canned cat food that leads out the door.
To make sure the skunk is gone, put a thick strip of flour over the entrance to see its tracks from the garage. Once the skunk can be confirmed to be out, close the door.
Also, skunks tend to fall into window shafts and are not very good at climbing to get out on their own.
Wildlife in Crisis suggests, if the window shaft is shallow enough, placing a wooden plank at a 45-degree angle for the skunk to walk up and out. The board needs something like chicken wire wrapped around it so that the skunk’s feet can grab it. To encourage them to walk, place a trail of cheese or cat food on the board.
Help for orphans or injured people
People can always call Newtown Animal Control Center directly at 203-426-6900 or Wildlife in Crisis at 203-544-9913 to report an animal in need of assistance. When leaving a message for assistance, people should provide a description of the animal and its whereabouts.
For more information on Wildlife in Crisis, visit Wildlifeincrisis.org or email [email protected].
For a list of authorized rehabilitators (individuals and organizations) throughout Connecticut, visit portal.ct.gov/deep/wildlife/rehabilitator/dealing-with-distressed-wildlife.
Alissa Silber can be reached at [email protected].
Eastern striped skunks are found in Connecticut and have a distinguishable white stripe that extends from the center of the forehead to the tail. The strip typically splits into two strips along its back. —Chane and Rhonda Cullen’s photos
Skunks can spray up to ten feet or more, but before spraying they usually stamp their feet and arch their tails as a warning.
This skunk – partially blind from missing an eye – was walking up a driveway in Newtown before accidentally stepping into a garage. Fortunately, the homeowner was kind enough to escort him safely out with a trash can and no one was sprayed.