The skunk's tail is hopelessly caught in the bicycle chain.

Generally there is nothing unusual about an injured skunk being rehabilitated and released at The Fund for Animals' Wildlife Center in Southern California. What makes this skunk's story so unique is the nature of the injury and the courage of the young man who saved the skunk's life.

In late October 2006, a young man was taking a late night bicycle ride on one of the popular bicycle trails in San Diego. Seemingly out of nowhere, a skunk rushed across the trail and instead of making it to the other side, the skunk's tail became exceedingly tangled in the bicycle chain. Both skunk and bike rider hit the ground. Although the bicyclist was unhurt, the skunk was obviously in trouble. He could not run away, and his tail was bleeding profusely. The unfortunate bicyclist's only option to keep his bike and save the injured skunk was to carry both--the bike and the skunk--back to civilization. After trekking a mile and a half and getting drenched with a hefty dose of "skunk perfume," the young man finally reached his truck.

Adding Insult to Injury...

It took the man several hours to locate the center, as it's not always easy in a community to discern who may be able to help our wild neighbors. Also, community resources providing this type of help are sometimes scarce; our center in southern California, though, is the only agency in San Diego permitted to rehabilitate skunks. Once the bicycle and skunk were on our property, we were able to disengage the skunk's tail, conduct a physical exam, begin treatment for shock, and work on repairing the damaged tail.

About a third of the skunk's tail was severely damaged and would probably need to be amputated. The center's veterinarian, Dr. Don Wood, agreed with the initial assessment, and after making sure the skunk was stable, he surgically repaired the skunk's tail. The skunk rapidly improved over the next few days. In fact he was feeling so improved that he felt well enough to take out all the stitches in his tail before they had given the wound a chance to heal! This act of an injured wild animal is not unusual, but it necessitated another surgery. Another piece of his tail had to be amputated, leaving him with less than half a tail. We were concerned about the stress of another surgery but knew that it was necessary in order for the tail to heal.

By the end of the first week of November, healing was well underway after the second surgery, and the skunk was now alert and anxious to get his freedom. In spite of missing half of his tail, he is still able to spray and defend himself, a key factor in being able to successfully matriculate back to the wild. He was released at the end of November and probably never realized how much his encounter with the bicycle had impacted so many people. Now, a biker and all his friends, too, will know where to find help for wildlife that are injured or in need or rescue. All such efforts anchor our work in the community and at large.

Posted February 5, 2007

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