“You can’t depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus” ~ Mark Twain


    ♥ Rescue
    ♥ Rehab
    ♥ Release




A Tale of Two Scent Glands

SKUNKS are the subject of many SWRA HELPLINE calls, so we feel very fortunate to have a skunk specialist to care for all the orphaned, sick, and injured skunks we rescue. Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator Darcy Toronto became interested in skunks five years ago when her husband found three orphaned baby skunks in their compost pile. Says Darcy, “It took me four days to find someone who would take them and by then, my husband and I were infatuated.” Darcy signed up for the mammal rehabilitation classes required to receive a license and has been caring for skunks ever since. Darcy recently published a book: A Guide for Rehabilitation and Foster Care of the Wild Striped Skunk. The book was sponsored by SkunkHaven Skunk Rescue, Inc.

The skunk we see in our neighborhoods is the Striped Skunk, whose scientific name, Mephitis, means “a foul exhalation.” Okay, so that’s not too surprising, but in the following excerpt from Darcy’s wonderful book, you may be surprised by facts about skunks you didn’t know!

“Newborn skunks weigh about 15 grams and although almost naked at birth, show the characteristic black and white color pattern of the adult. They are fully haired in about 14 days, and their eyes open after 22 to 28 days. Skunks do not see very well, just a few feet in front of them. Their ears open after 24 to 27 days. The musk gland is developed at 28 days. When the young are approximately six weeks old, the female takes them out to forage for food, and they are weaned at about two months. They remain with their mother until autumn and may join her in the winter den but generally, the family unit breaks up and disperses around three to four months.

Skunks have well-developed scent glands and a musky odor. The scent of the skunk is produced by a thick, yellow, oily fluid–or musk–secreted by two glands located on either side of the anus at the base of the tail. The glands are about the size of a grape and contain about a tablespoon of musk, enough for five or six discharges. The glands are connected by ducts to two small nipples that are hidden when the tail is down and exposed when the tail is raised. The musk is produced rather slowly, at a rate of about one-third of an ounce a week and is discharged only as a last desperate measure after repeated warning signals.

A skunk is not an aggressive animal and will always try to retreat from a human or other large enemy. An angry skunk will growl or hiss, stamp its front feet rapidly, or even walk a short distance on its front feet with its tail high in the air. The Striped Skunk cannot spray from this position. To defend itself, it humps its back and turns in a U-shaped position so that both the head and tail face the enemy. Many people used to the antics of the striped skunk have been deceived on their first encounter with a Spotted Skunk, which faces an attacker standing on its front feet with its back and tail arched forward.

The skunk directs the fluid from the glands in a stream that disperses into a fine spray. The spray can reach as far as 20 feet and can be aimed with considerable accuracy for up to ten feet. The odor is strong enough to be carried almost one mile in the wind. At close range, the spray of a skunk causes severe stinging of the eyes and even nausea, but these symptoms soon disappear as the nasal passages quickly become desensitized to the odor. Skunks occasionally will “whiff” which is a slight release of musk just to let you know they are there.” (cont. on page 3)

We Love OurPatr

We Love OurPatrons!

“Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.”
––Johann von Goethe

As always, SWRA is tremendously grateful for the goodness of its donors. We especially appreciate two exemplary individuals who donate on a regular basis. They are: David Burkhart and Diana Gardener. Thank you, David and Diana, for your unceasing generosity! We also express our thankfulness to: Bob Bradley, Gary & Joanne Borges, Judy Brunkal, Mary Buzzell, Denise Cedar, Jim Conley, Maribeth Doran, Lori Fisher, Torrie Gordon, Carolyn Hahn, Will High, Dr. Richard Hillmer, Susie Ilman, Roger & Aileen Kaye, Kathleen Kirby, Francis Lombardi, Teresa Magee, Joan Nelson, Diane Palmer, Fred & Susan Peterson, Johanna Plansoen, Jon Pope, Annette Schmitt, Chad & Mary Sterling, Arcena Tocchini, Rudolf & Jacqueline Visket, Frank & Jackie Walker, Jan & Larry Williamson, and Ruth Zebb.

We’d like to thank Chris Brindle of Wild Birds Unlimited for allowing us to sell our NEW fundraiser tee shirts at the store. The SWRA tee shirts are available in medium, large, x-large and xx-large for only $12. Buy one at our monthly meeting or call Trina Brown at 503-371-0966 or stop by Wild Birds Unlimited at 1210 Commercial Street SE in Salem.

Dr. Shari Hensley is a veterinarian in the Jefferson area and has volunteered to help us whenever possible. Veterinarians are an integral part of our service to ailing wildlife, so we appreciate Dr. Hensley’s willingness to donate her time and expertise! Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife Biologist Will High is also part of our network of wildlife advocates. Will is our supervisor and is never too busy to provide guidance. Thanks, Will!

LifeSource Natural Foods continues to donate fresh fruit and vegetables. Thank you so much!!

Our MEMBERSHIP MEETING is held on the first Thursday of each month, 5:30 PM, in the first floor conference room of the Acordia/Wells Fargo Bldg. at the corner of Madrona Avenue and Industrial Drive. Drive to the back of the building, and WE’LL be there to greet YOU!

Membership Matters

Our new fiscal year begins in March, when we’ll elect new officers to our board of directors. Here is our 2005 slate of candidates: Cyndi Leech, President; Mary Sterling, Vice-President; Trina Brown, incumbent Secretary; Jay Seymour, Treasurer; and Tari Edmonds, Member At Large. SWRA extends warm thanks to the 2004 officers for their excellent efforts: Tari Edmonds, President; Joni Brewer, Vice-President; Trina Brown, Secretary, and Jan Williamson, Treasurer.

Fellowship and food were enjoyed in equal amounts at SWRA’s holiday potluck on December 2. Doorprizes were distributed to everyone who attended! Left to right in this photo are Tari Edmonds, Sherri Antieau-Fox, and Trina Brown. We thank Acordia-Wells Fargo for loaning us their cozy conference room for our party. SWRA Treasurer Jan Williamson was the recipient of a handmade quilt. Jan is recovering from major surgery, and SWRA members designed quilt patches with nature themes. Trina Brown organized this project. Thanks to all who participated!

During this frosty season, don’t forget to provide fresh, clean water to backyard wildlife. A reliable water source is critical in cold, dry weather.

Did you know? Skunk musk is composed of six different compounds of sulfur and hydrogen. The odor permeates hair and wool because it reacts with animal protein. Only three of the compounds smell at first. The other three kick in when they contact water, making washing counterproductive! –Thanks to Erin Barrett & Jack Mingo, authors of the Just Curious Ask Jeeves books

If you find an animal needing assistance, please contact the WILDLIFE HELPLINE, 503-856-8242. HELPLINE volunteers will triage your call and refer you to the appropriate rehabilitator if the situation requires in-care treatment. Many situations can be resolved through triage. SWRA can only treat and release native wildlife. However, we will help you find humane solutions for non-native animals in distress.

A Tale of Two Scent Glands, con’t

“Skunks have a code of honor among themselves and will not spray each other. They avoid spraying in confined spaces, and their dens have little of the skunk odor about them. Skunks may be carried in a covered live trap, as long as they are not bumped or badly frightened.”

Though skunks are generally docile animals, their poor eyesight means that they startle easily. Darcy’s advice? Give skunks a wide berth, and they will leave you alone. And just why do we see so many of them dead on the road? Says Darcy, “When skunks sense that a predator is coming (the car) they stop to spray it as it advances. That is why you smell the odor. Most people think the odor comes after you hit the skunk with the car, but it actually comes because they have sprayed just prior to getting hit. They are so cocky and confident, they assume you will move out of the way. If you hit a skunk on the road before it has had time to spray, you will not smell anything.” And why are skunks so confident and cocky? Those scent glands make them formidable prey, so they have few natural enemies other than the Great Horned Owl, who doesn’t have an acute sense of smell and loves skunk meat! Cars, traps, and guns are the unnatural enemies of the skunk.

Skunks are omnivorous but consider mice a favorite food, making them a friend to all who have rodent explosions on their property! They also eat insects, fruit, eggs, acorns, lizards, earthworms, spiders and carrion. They are primarily nocturnal and begin foraging at sunset. There are many non-lethal ways to keep skunks from denning under your house or invading your chicken coop or spraying your domestic pets. Helpful tips for living in harmony with these mild-mannered critters can be found at:www.projectwildlife.org/living-skunks.htm. We also highly recommend the book, Living With Wildlife in The Pacific Northwest, by Russell Link. In 2004, Darcy rehabbed and released 25 skunks and relocated and released 13 adult skunks from live traps throughout Salem. Her WISH LIST includes the following items: extra large underpads, frozen peas and corn, pedialyte, 8 oz bottles, Brawny paper towels, all types of washing machine and dishwasher soap. To donate these items, please call Trina Brown at 503-371-0966.

Wildlife Rehab News

“All the arguments to prove man’s superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering, the animals are our equals.” ––Peter Singer

Raptor Rehabilitator Karen Costa stays busy throughout the year. Winter brings some of the hardest cases of all: starving birds. Sixty percent of all first year raptors die of hunger. The reasons? Over-cultivation of fields, destruction of hedgerows, and pesticide use have decimated the rodent population.

Karen’s current case load includes two Red-tailed Hawks, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a Pygmy Owl. One Red-tail was discovered entangled in berry bushes. He was hungry and too exhausted to extricate himself. He is scratched and bruised but will recover. The other Red-tail got into a chicken coop and then couldn’t get out! He is thin, exhausted, and scraped up but will recover after rest and food. The Sharp-shinned Hawk sustained a concussion after hitting a window. He has recovered nicely and will be released in early January.

The Pygmy Owl was found on a driveway in the Mehama area. Normally, this diminutive bird is NOT found in human-inhabited areas. The owl has a broken wing with joint damage and will require intensive care for some months to come. This is Karen’s first Pygmy Owl, and she marvels at his sweet nature. He is five inches tall and only weighs 2-3 ounces! His primary food is mice, though he does hunt insects and songbirds–some birds bigger than himself–in daylight.

Raccoon Rehabilitator Melanie Smith is overwintering 30 juvenile raccoons! In the wild, juveniles stay with their mother up to her next estrus, which occurs between December and March. She then runs them off but not before she has taught them hunting skills. Youngsters may stay together through their first winter but generally separate later in the year. The youngsters Melanie is caring for have been separated according to gender and are developing close bonds with bunkmates. They are in outdoor pens with as little human contact as possible and are gradually “wilding up.” Melanie is seeking good release sites for the spring release, so if you have property that you think may be suitable, please call her at 503-585-0564.