DO SKUNKS MAKE GOOD PETS?
For most people the answer is NO, because skunks require a tremendous amount of attention and care, are usually destructive, and are illegal in most states. They are also escape artists, and cannot survive without their defense mechanism. They are, without a doubt, demanding little "stinkers", capable of turning your life upside down, and have special diet, training and health problems.
Wildlife rehabilitators occasionally get unreleasable wild and domestic skunks, most being descented. These usually make good educational animals.
I don't advocate skunks as pets and talk hundreds of people a year out of the decision to have a wild pet skunk, but because our organization doesn't discriminate, we have learned much about the wild skunk by studying the domestics over the years.
Skunk owners are a growing group. There is a contingent of owners who are serious devotees managing to keep their animals responsibly and successfully. But for many owners, they range from neglect of the animal's special needs to a high probability of having its life ended by euthanasia. Experts make it clear that the problems are not due to bad animals, but are rather the result of the owner's lack of knowledge about the skunk. It is an inappropriate-pet and irresponsible-owner problem. There are important organizations for skunk caretakers to join. (See Links.) You can obtain good diet information from them and S.K.U.N.K.S., another organization that is so important to join if you are in the care of skunks, whether they are "rehabilitated" or "unreleasable wild or pet" skunks.
Wild skunks don't make as good a pet as the domestic pen-raised skunk, which are more loving and devoted to their caretaker as they have been bred in captivity for over 70 years as pets, and are also more healthy. They also come in different colors (albino, chocolate, silver, apricot, cream, lilac, to name a few) with white stripes, and different patterns (swirls, solid white back called a silverback, or have spots behind the back legs called chip, multi-colored called confetti, etc.). They have even been bred with reverse coloring - white with black stripes! In other words, they rarely throw back to regular black and white coloring and markings because of years of breeding experimentation. If any skunks are found in these colors, they are rarely wild skunks and should not be destroyed. It most likely would be an escaped pet that is descented and vaccinated. Educate your local animal control and humane officers, trappers and exterminators about the differences. Have them contact you when they find these skunks.
Wild skunks are, and always will be, wild animals. They are afraid of strangers and new situations, and need a spacious environment that is interesting to them. They are independent and will not accept punishment from humans or respond to voice control as dogs do. In fact, they will not respond to humans at all unless they want to. You have to make a lifetime commitment to this animal, since they may not always make an easily-handled animal for the next caretaker.
Unless prospective caretakers learn all these things, and are committed to providing what a skunk needs, their lack of knowledge or concern causes untold suffering to the animals involved. They live out their lives alone in a cage. Or, when new caretakers discover what they have and decide they cannot handle it, they give up the animals.
In the case of keeping an "unreleasable" skunk, surgically removing the scent glands deprives the skunk of its main line of defense, and should be given serious consideration before making that decision.
So, the skunk is not a pet for everyone. It is a pet for a specific type of person who has time, money, patience, and loves the skunk.
S.K.U.N.K.S. Scentral Pets Page
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