by Sandi Martinez
April, 2010; the weather is warm and it’s sunny. My parent’s dog is frantic; she’s barking at seemingly nothing. My mother and I walk casually over to where she’s posed, ready to strike. She’s a brown-spotted Jack Russel Terrier. There’s a fence that separates her from the ‘thing’ she’s barking at. So we’re not worried.
Upon closer inspection, it would appear that there are two baby skunks safely, (or so it seems), placed next to an irrigation ditch. We hear the strange guttural noises they make, but we can’t tell if they’re hurt. We decide it’s best for the mother to come back for her children, and so we wait. And wait. And then it’s the next day; late morning, and she still hasn’t come for her babies.
I am getting increasingly worried, and quite ignorantly, I decide to feed them some milk, condensed to be exact… I climb over the barbed wire fence; I manage to cross over without any damage, and walk very slowly, and carefully toward the sweet skunks that are both literally stacked one on top of the other. The stronger one on top squeals at me, a warning to stay away. But I hold out the milk in its tiny dish and very slowly push it toward them. I then quickly jump away, as I see that it is facing its behind at me. I reassure him, telling him that I’m just trying to help. He seems to calm down, and goes back to its sibling – it stares at me at me with caution and fear. I climb the fence and leave for a few hours coming back periodically to check on them. I begin to realize that they are not drinking the milk, which turns out to be the wrong thing to give them! Then, I had a brilliant idea; call a veterinary hospital or vet. But they direct me to the Wildlife Center in Espanola, New Mexico. Goat’s milk they recommend, or kitten replacement milk. Well, there are no goats around, and I’m at least 20 minutes from the nearest town. The WC recommends, bring them in. Right…
I think how hard could this be? My mother is standing by with a metal crate, lined with foam, and a makeshift cushioned lid. I cross the fence again, without incident, and discover that the stronger skunk has moved – closer to the ditch. It is now precariously close to rolling down, and landing in the water. It sees me and thinks it’s safer close to the weeds that touch the edges of the water line. Meanwhile, the weaker sibling is very still and hasn’t moved. Its eyes are closed, it is silent. My mother rushes to get me a pair of gloves. I have to reach this dear little skunk before it lands in the water. It burrows itself into the weeds, it starts sliding closer to the water. There’s a bush with wimpy limbs and I’m hoping it will hold me, as I need something to hang on to while I reach for the skunk. I reach down for the little guy, the weak limb holds, and I barely catch him on time.
Oddly, he doesn’t spray, which I was prepared for. He wiggles in my hand, and I am able to quickly put him in the crate. I reach for the weaker sibling, afraid I am too late. Thankfully, he or she was alive. We rushed them to the WC in Espanola. They were very weak and hungry, but alive. A few weeks later, we received a letter from the WC telling us that they were doing well, and would be released back in our area when they were stronger. A brother (the stronger one) and sister, took care of each other, and in the process tested me; and I discovered a person can really do what they set their mind to, and not get sprayed in the process!
Share your rescue stories with us – we’d love to hear them!