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Birdwatchers Grab Skunk with Head Sealed in Jar: How They Saved a Life

Birdwatchers Grab Skunk with Head Sealed in Jar: How They Saved a Life


Written byMaureen Koplow of New Jersey

I went to the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge with my good friend Janet Romano Schubert to do some birdwatching. We saw lots of ducks and other birds. And then we saw a skunk. He came waddling down the road and we thought it was kind of unusual to see a skunk in broad daylight. Looking through the binoculars, we realized that his head was stuck in a jar. We stopped the car and he kept coming toward us. He crawled under my car and we got out to try to figure out what to do. When he came out, it was obvious that he was really stuck, and that he needed help.

Twice we managed to get our hands on the jar, but it was badly stuck and it wouldn’t come off. I had a large canvas bag in my car, so we got that and tried to get him in the bag. It took several tries but we managed to capture him and we carried the bag back to the car.

We’re Holding a Skunk in a Canvas Bag in the Middle of Nowhere – Photos

Picture this: it’s below 30 degrees, we’re bundled up (and Janet’s glove got a slight spray), we’re holding a skunk in a canvas bag and we’re in the middle of the refuge on a Saturday afternoon. We didn’t have a lot of choices, so we put the bag in the back of the car and drove (too fast) to the refuge office. Unfortunately, it turns out that no one is there on weekends. So we called New Jersey Fish & Game — no answer at all, the phone just kept ringing.

We next called 911 and got through to the local dispatcher who put us on hold while she tried to reach animal control. After about 10 minutes (at least), the dispatcher came back on line and said animal control can’t help wildlife. But she gave us the number for a wildliferehabilitator in the region (not real close, but our only hope).

We called that woman, named Suzanne Fenton, and she said there was a veterinary officenearby. We drove directly to the vet, Dr. Lori Nordt at the AtlanticAnimal Health Center. It was now about 30 minutes or more since wehad captured the skunk and we were afraid he was going to suffocate. Dr. Nordt told us to bring the canvas bag with the skunk into the office. Everyone in the waiting room was fascinated and no one was upset that we were taken right in ahead of them.

His Neck Was Swollen So the Jar Wouldn’t Come Off

She took us into a side room where she found that the jar was stuck because the skunk’s neck had become swollen. Attempts to use a solution to lubricate the area didn’t work, so she realized the jar would have to be broken. She weighed the skunk to determine how much sedative to give him, then injected him and waited a minute or two for him to relax. Then she turned him on his back to prevent glass from getting into his eyes and hit the jar with a hammer. It shattered, but the rim was still around his neck with jagged edges sticking out. So she pulled the rim up high toward his shoulders, put a cover over his eyes, and hit the rim with the hammer to finish removing it. Meanwhile, Janet and I were overwhelmed with relief.

The skunk was dehydrated, so Dr.Nordt administered fluids, then put him into a spare carrier.We discarded the canvas bag and Janet’s glove. The vet’s office called Suzanne Fenton and she said she would meet us at a point halfway to her rehab center. Dr. Nordt refused to accept any payment for the rescue. We put the carrier into my car and drove to the meeting place. Suzanne took the skunk and put him into her van and we all finally were able to relax.

Please Don’t Litter

Amazingly, my car only smells a little and I’m sure that Nature’s Miracle will help. Neither Janet nor I have any residual smell on our bodies or clothes. The skunk will have an easy recovery and then be released back into his territory. So I ask people, please don’t litter! That empty jar, can, plastic bag or six-pack holder that you toss on the ground can cause the death of an animal. This skunk was lucky, but most who are victims of human ignorance do not do as well.

We probably broke a few laws today by removing wildlife from a federal refuge, but we placed him with a licensed rehabilitator and we saved his life. There was no danger of rabies because his head was completely enclosed and we were wearing heavy winter clothing. I do not recommend placing a skunk in your car. But it was worth it! From start to finish, the rescue took about 90 minutes and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Suzanne recently gave us the great news that “our” skunk had fully recovered and that she had released him back at the refuge near where we had found him. Of course I sent a donation to Suzanne at Wildlife Aid, 155 Asbury Ave., Egg Harbor Townsip, NJ 08235. PHOTOS: Click here to see the skunk with the jar on its head.


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Photo Credit: Sonya

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8:31AM PDT on Oct 6, 2014

That was a great rescue. I think that most people would not have tried to help the skunk, because of fear of being sprayed.

6:03AM PDT on May 25, 2014

great story, thank you.

5:28AM PDT on May 24, 2014

Can we save their life, too?

3:10PM PDT on May 20, 2014


3:53AM PDT on May 18, 2014

I'm so glad Maureen and Janet were there. That poor animal would have died slowly of starvation and thirst. Thank you!

5:02PM PDT on Apr 16, 2013

Thank you for taking your time and effort to go the extra mile :)

5:35AM PST on Jan 6, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

7:40AM PDT on Oct 27, 2012

Great story! Good on you for helping the skunk.

2:23PM PDT on Aug 12, 2012

WONDERFUL story, many thanks

8:24PM PDT on Apr 23, 2012

The same thing happened to me back in 1993, but i was too chicken to help the skunk. I didn't want to get sprayed or bitten. It was a mayonnaise jar, just like this case. I vowed since then that if it ever happens again, I'm gonna help.

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