Skunk found in garden

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The Independent Online

A skunk is being cared for at a wildlife centre after being found in a garden.

The young female, thought to be about four months old and nicknamed Ozzy, was spotted in the back garden of a house in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

Populations of the native North American animal are increasing in the UK.

It is thought that skunks have been released into the wild by people who had kept them as pets until legislation in 2007 banned the removal of their scent gland.

Sightings have been reported of skunks rummaging through bins and around allotments in nearby Coleford.

Ozzy is now being looked after at the Vale Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre in Tewkesbury.

Caroline Gould, the centre's founder, said they had no idea how to look after a skunk when they got the call from the RSPCA.

"We didn't believe it was a skunk when we first got the call - we thought it would be a badger - but we were shocked when she came in.

"We've never had a skunk here so we had no idea how to care for her or what to feed her, but we did a lot of research on the internet.

"Everyone now has a soft spot for her. She is quite friendly and is getting used to being handled.

"If we re-home her it would have to be with someone who is quite experienced, but everyone is keen to keep her here."

Ms Gould said they have had reports of sightings of adult and young skunks in Coleford.

"Quite a few people keep skunks as pets and they would have them de-scented so that they cannot spray," she said.

"But the new legislation ruled that removing their scent glands was illegal because it was cosmetic.

"We think that a couple of skunks have been released into the wild and now they are breeding.

"They are no threat to our native wildlife and habitats but they aren't supposed to be here.

"Like any animal, they will become defensive if cornered and will spray or bite."