Johnson County resident takes in rescued skunks
Jonesy and Barney don’t like anyone except each other. Blossom is outgoing. Daisy loves a back rub. Stinky is morbidly obese. Always rejected by females, Odie still wants a mate. And along with being the youngest, Andy is the instigator for all moments of mischief.
These are the personalities of Chris Chung’s seven skunks.
On the hunt 16 years ago for a novel pet, Chung conducted careful research and decided to share her home with a nocturnal little creature with a waddle and a telltale white stripe down the middle of its black fur.
She then drove to Iowa to purchase a newly weaned skunk that she named Pixie.
Chung assumed that life would quietly roll along with only Pixie and a couple of cats.
However, word quickly got around that this animal advocate had one sweet little skunk in her care.
Surely she would take in another one.
And another one.
And several more.
Soon after Pixie moved in, Chung’s home became a revolving door for nearly 20 skunks surrenders.
The problem is that many novice skunk fans are uneducated and unrealistic about life with skunks.
“People expect skunks to be like cats and dogs, outgoing and friendly,” she said. “But they live life on their own terms. You can’t modify their behavior. You have to change to accommodate them.”
Once these truths about their quirky little family members are discovered, many owners want their skunks to go elsewhere.
Domesticated skunks are de-scented so they can’t defend themselves in the wild.
But re-homing rejected skunks is a difficult process, unless of course, someone like Chung is around. Someone who loves skunks unconditionally, even if they poop in shoes or hide so well that it takes hours to find them.
In the wild a skunk’s lifespan is about five years. If they are domesticated, their life expectancy doubles, Chung said. But there is definitely some hard work involved with properly caring for skunks.
With access to slivers of fabric and old blankets, skunks in Chung’s abode decide on their own where to nest. For example, Daisy laid claim on the area under Chung’s 55-gallon aquarium. Andy stretches out under the claw foot tub in the bathroom. Blossom climbs the ramp provided for her so she can sleep under the covers, next to Chung.
Rarely, a furry someone waddles to the kitchen for a breakfast of Honey Nut Cheerios or a few bites of a cookie.
Most often, the skunks snooze all day.
A hearty dinner of vegetables and berries, nuts and cheese and a taste or two of nonfat yogurt will be served by 10 p.m. They all know the routine. Odie is the only one who follows Chung around until she fills their plates. Once weekly, a raw egg is added to every skunk’s plate.
Later in the evening, everybody gets an animal cracker for snack time.
“A little bit of sugar helps them absorb calcium,” Chung said.
With so many different personalities in the mix, spats are common.
“They stomp and scream at each other,” Chung said with a laugh. “And it is always over food. Andy likes to play all the time. He plays tag with the cats. But only one cat plays back.”
Some people insist that skunks do not climb.
But those people obviously never met Louie.
Very smartly, Louie figured out how to pull child locks away from kitchen cabinets enough to turn the notches into a makeshift ladder.
“One time I came home from work and found 2 pounds of powdered sugar all over the place. My whole kitchen was covered,” Chung said. “Another time I baked chocolate chip cookies and Louie climbed up on the counter and knocked the cookies off for everyone else to enjoy.”
“He was a hero that day,” said Chung’s boyfriend, David Giroux.
Last year, Chung lost five loved skunks to old age and health issues.
Because her home is filled to the brim with the rejected skunks of previous owners, Chung says that she no longer supports the notion of breeding skunks to be domesticated. Obviously she knows better than most people how frequently domesticated skunks are kicked out of their forever homes.
“They all need a place,” she said of surrendered skunks. “And I am OK with it being my place.”