If you accidentally uncovered a den of baby skunks under your shed, stairs, or walkway, don’t panic! Skunks are excellent mothers and will come back for their babies if you give them a chance. Once a nest is discovered or disturbed, they will move the babies to a safer location.
Are any of the baby skunks injured?
A baby skunk with any of the following signs is injured and needs medical attention:
- There are obvious wounds or blood on its body
- It has had contact with a cat – even with no obvious injuries, this is a medical emergency for baby skunks
- It is lying on its side and cannot right itself
- There are bugs crawling around on it
Put the injured baby skunk(s) in a cardboard box in a dark, quiet place. Put a heat source like a rice sock or warm water bottle in the box with them. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away.
If the other babies in the den are not injured, it may still be possible to reunite them with their mother. Read on.
Can you put the babies back?
The best thing you can do is put the babies right back in the den. You should give the mother skunk 24hrs (including one full overnight period) to come back for her babies. You can test whether she came back by stuffing some newspaper in the entry hole. There’s a very good chance that this disturbance will scare her enough to move the babies tonight. If she doesn’t, and you want the skunk family to move along, see our page on skunk nuisance situations for ways to encourage the mother to find another den.
The den has been destroyed
If the den has been destroyed, that’s okay. The mother skunk will probably still come back for her babies and move them to a new den. We just have to give her a chance.
To keep the baby skunks safe while you figure out how to help them, put the skunks in a small cardboard box with a soft towel or t-shirt. Even on a warm day babies can get cold, so give them a heat source:
- a clean sock filled with dry, uncooked rice, and microwaved for one minute
- a plastic bottle from the recycling bin filled with hot tap water
- an electric heating pad set to “LOW” and placed under half of the box.
Don’t give the baby skunks any food or water — right now keeping them warm, dark, and quiet is more important.
Reuniting the skunks with their mother
Place the box with the baby skunks (and heat source) as close as possible to the original nest site. Skunks are not very good at climbing, so make sure the box is not too tall — we want to make sure the mother skunk can reach her babies when she comes back. Shoebox height is perfect.
When a nest has been disturbed like this, we know that the mother skunk is still nearby. She might be too frightened to come back right away, especially if people are still working in the area.
Baby skunks should be left out for one whole overnight period to see if their mother will come back — skunks are nocturnal, and most likely to come looking for their babies at night. Make sure to KEEP THEM WARM – refresh the heat source as needed.
Don’t give the babies anything to eat or drink. Right now, keeping them warm and trying to get them back to their mother is more important.
What if it’s raining?
If it’s raining lightly, cover half of the box with a piece of cardboard. If it’s raining hard, bring the babies inside and keep them dark and quiet and warm. Put them back outside as soon as the weather clears up a bit. A mother skunk won’t be looking for her babies during a heavy rain.
What if it’s during the day?
If you found the babies during the day, put them outside right away – although skunks are nocturnal, mothers will still look for their babies during the day. They’re good moms. In very busy high-traffic areas, it may make more sense to bring the babies inside and keep them somewhere dark and quiet. As soon as the sun starts to set and traffic dies down, get it outside right away. No matter what, make sure to leave baby skunks out for their mother for at least one whole overnight period.
MYTH! If you touch a baby skunk, its mother will NOT abandon it. Skunks are excellent moms. All they want is their baby back.
Mom didn’t come back
If you’ve kept the baby warm and waited at least one whole overnight period, the baby is probably orphaned. Mother skunks almost never abandon their babies, but sometimes something happens to mom and she can’t make it back.
Make sure the baby is contained and has a heat source, don’t give it any food or water, and contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
While you are waiting to hear back from a wildlife rehabilitator, keep the baby skunk contained in a dark, quiet place. Make sure it has a heat source. Don’t give it any food or water until you have spoken to a rehabilitator. Further temporary care instructions can be found here.