LOGAN, Ohio (AP) — Donna and Gary Baker work with Skunk Haven to rescue and care for domestic skunks in need of help and a good home until they are adopted.
Donna has had a love for skunks since her father bought her a stuffed one when she was a child.
"My son gave me the money to purchase my first skunk as a gift," said Donna.
That was in 2002 and it was after that the Bakers got a call from Skunk Haven asking them to care for a rescued skunk.
The Bakers fell in love with their first skunk and others they have cared for. Now they have 17 of the furry friends living with them.
They get calls for skunks that come from owners who are not able to care for them, breeders, dealers, pet stores and sometimes from the wild once permission has been granted from the Division of Wildlife.
"You must have a permit to own a skunk," said Gary. "The permit has to be applied for annually with the Division of Wildlife and we get a visit from a wildlife officer each time.
"There is a steep fine for owning a wildlife animal without a permit," he noted.
"When we get a new skunk we bathe them, clip their nails, give them worm medicine and quarantine them for about two weeks," Gary continued.
Once the Bakers know the animals are disease-free they begin introducing them to the other pets.
"We love on all of the skunks even though some of them are not affectionate," said Gary. "They all have their own personality and while some like the attention some of them just want to be left alone."
The skunks live in the Bakers' home like their dogs do. They can be found in the bedroom, behind a door, under a chair, in the middle of the floor or nestled together sleeping.
According to Skunk Haven, domestically-bred skunks do not usually carry rabies. The skunk would need to come into direct contact with another animal shedding the rabies virus to be infected. Typically, since pet skunks are never outside unattended, there is little chance of them having rabies.
When most people think of skunks they envision the classic black fur with a white stripe down the middle of the animal. However, they come in many different colors and patterns. Some are albino, which is white with pink eyes; others can be white with dark eyes, tan, lavender or gray in color and have distinct white spots on all four legs.
According to Skunk Haven, pet skunks are de-scented by the breeders between two and five weeks of age.
In some states it is legal for breeders to sell skunks that are not de-scented; breeders, however, may charge more or less than the going rate if they are not de-scented.
Skunks make various sounds as a warning to enemies. They can screech like a pig, whine when mad, chirp like a bird to get attention, whimper like a dog when they are sad or frightened, grumble or grunt when upset, and they even lip-smack when content.
Wild skunks warn predators and others that are a threat by stomping their front feet and raising their tails in full bloom. They will run directly toward the threat and stop. Then they may stomp, hiss or squeal. If the enemy doesn't heed the warnings the skunk will turn and spray them.
Domestic skunks sometimes use the same tactics, often as a form of play, but luckily they are de-scented and it's all for show.
Gary recommends not scaring a skunk in the wild because they will spray a person and that smell is strong and can last a while. Once a skunk uses its spray if can take up to a week for their body to replenish it.
"The spray can blind you if it is not washed out right away," he said.
Wild skunks normally live up to five years due to disease, predatory birds and unintentional acts by humans, according to Skunk Haven. Some have lived past 10 years, but that is rare.
The Bakers give their skunks stuffed animals and various toys with squeakers to play with.
Oftentimes these animals get blamed for being troublemakers in neighborhoods for digging holes, spraying other animals or getting into trash cans. They, however, can't jump to knock over the garbage can.
The skunks at the Bakers get fed up to 90 percent of their diet in bite-sized dog food. The other part of the diet consists of fruits and vegetables. A treat for them sometimes is unsalted peanuts.
"You should call Skunk Haven or Division of Wildlife if you have an unwanted skunk," stated Gary. "This way the animal can be safely removed."