If you find a baby skunk …

A baby skunk has the best chance of survival when it is cared for by its mother.

A small baby skunk stands alone in a grassy field

Striped skunks breed in Virginia from February to March, with much activity noted around Valentine’s Day. Female skunks give birth to a single litter each May-June; average litter sizes range from four to eight babies, which are all born hairless, with a visible white stripe over their heads and backs.  These nocturnal animals den in old woodchuck burrows, hollow logs, wood or rock piles, or under buildings and stone walls. Babies typically stay in their dens until their eyes and ears have opened (which takes place at about three weeks of age), their fur has completely grown in, and their mobility skills have developed.

Young skunks emerge from their dens between 6 to 8 weeks old and measure between 8-9 inches long.  It is not uncommon to see a baby at this life stage exploring on its own or playing with its siblings outside of the den. At this age, they should be reactive to predators (including humans!); baby skunks can spray at a relatively young age, though the musky smell is much less intense than their adult counterparts.

Baby skunks are weaned at two months of age. They will usually follow their mother until the end of summer and sometimes into the fall or winter. For more information on navigating nuisance skunks situations, please visit our Skunks as Neighbors page.

If you find a baby skunk, do any of the following apply?

  • The baby has flies surrounding it or is covered in fly eggs. These usually look like very tiny grains of rice around the face and under the tail.
  • The baby has an obvious injury or deformity.
  • The baby was in a dog or cat's mouth, even if no injuries were seen.
  • The baby is cold, wet, slow-moving, or not reactive when approached.
  • A very tiny baby, with its eyes still closed and limited mobility, has been seen outside the den for multiple hours without an adult present.
  • The baby has been seen outside of the den all day or night with no adult present.
  • It is known with absolute certainty that the mother is deceased or has been illegally relocated.

If YES, the baby skunk is likely injured or orphaned. Contact your nearest permitted wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian for treatment. Do not give the baby food or water!

If NO, appropriate attempts to reunite the baby with its mother should be made. The care of a wildlife rehabilitator will never compare to that of a wild mother. Determine the approximate age of the young skunk on the next question.

Avoid handling skunks directly; if you must pick up a baby skunk to contain it, always wear gloves, even with very young kits. Skunks are high-risk rabies species in Virginia; health departments will need to test skunks – even very young kits – for rabies if exposure occurs. 

Is the baby fully-furred, highly mobile, and reactive to people?

If YES, monitor the juvenile from a distance. Skunk mothers can get scared away from their babies rather easily, but a lone baby will usually be retrieved later. Mother and baby can track each other by scent. Older babies can typically find their way back to their own dens by scent. Leave the juvenile where it is overnight, then recheck to see if it is still there. If the baby is still in the area by morning, contact a permitted wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.

A young skunk kit is held facing the camera in a latex-gloved handIf NO, young babies that are smaller than four inches are very rarely seen outside of their den. Usually, this would only occur if there has been a disturbance in the den or the baby is truly orphaned.  

If a known disturbance has occurred (e.g. construction is taking place, a dog has dug up a den entrance) use leather gloves to pick up the baby and place it in an open shoebox (without the lid) and add a supplemental heat source that is not in direct contact with the young.  Be aware that baby and adult skunks are poor climbers, so the container must have low sides to provide access to the mother. Leave the baby outside with supplemental heat overnight to provide the mother ample opportunity to retrieve her young. If the baby is still in the same spot by morning, contact a permitted wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. 

 

Each animal's nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if they have any chance of survival. Inappropriate food or feeding techniques can lead to sickness or death. Raising a wild mammal in captivity is illegal unless you have a state permit. For information on how you can become a permitted wildlife rehabilitator, visit our Wildlife Care Academy and contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources or your state's wildlife agency.