Saving skunks trapped in drainage holes on dumpsters

By Guest Blogger: Marcy Potter

My first rescue of this kind was traumatizing, as were the rest of them. Our wildlife facility got a call about a

skunk stuck in a dumpster. It’s not what you would expect, much worse. When my co-worker and I got to the site, we found a skunk’s body on the outside of the dumpster, with his head stuck in the drain hole.


Photo credit: Tracy Riddel/WRA


Photo credit: Tracy Riddel/WRA

We started prepping. First we sedated him. Then, as I was the newbie, I got to climb in the dumpster. We

lubed up his neck, fashioned our make shift pulley system over his head, and slipped him out of the hole.

Now that was a “good” ending.

That was 6 years ago, and there have been many more since. There’s been a few where the city engineers or the

fire department of whatever municipality we are in, would have to come out (if they were allowed to or if they had

time) and have to cut a skunk out. Not only is the skunk’s jaw shaped that they can slip in the hole but not reverse

back out, if he’s been stuck too long the jaw gets too swollen for us to even slip him out. Cutting him out takes hours.

The surrounding portion of the drain holes are all reinforced metal, and extremely thick. The skunk must stay sedated,

so the machinery would not give the guy a heart attack. We also have to make sure the skunk doesn’t catch on fire

from the sparks from the equipment! Some skunks have come out of that with their neck sliced. Fortunately we were

able to suture them.


Photo Credit: Tracy Riddel/WRA


Photo credit: Tracy Riddel/WRA

All of this is preventable, all of it. Dumpsters are made with drain hole plugs, but are rarely used. Over the years I’ve

seen them used slightly more, and a few dumpsters now don’t even have the larger holes. Also, most municipalities

have bylaws that solid waste containers cannot have any openings, of a certain size, mostly so mice and rats are not

attracted and congregate in the area.

When I’ve called or written dumpster companies, I’ve been laughed at, hung up on and given the “oh that’s too bad”

talk, but nothing has changed. One company will plug them within 24 hours of reporting it to them, but why they don’t

do it in the first place is beyond me. I, and the rehab organization, called bylaw officers around the lower mainland, but

you can get the run around in some cases. Finally we called the press. Got some good coverage, but nothing changed.

Ideally, solid waste companies would do the right thing and plug them in the first place, so far that hasn’t happened,

so if everyone were to work together, here is something we can change! Check out dumpsters when you are by one.

If you see the drain open on the side of it, call the number that is always on the side of the dumpster. Give them the

address and tell them to plug the hole. If you get the run around, which is likely, find out if your municipality has a bylaw

on the books, and report them to a bylaw officer. If that doesn’t work, start writing letters to get bylaws in place.

If you see a trapped skunk or other wild animal, please call (do not email) your local SPCA or wildlife rehabilitation centre.

In Metro Vancouver, please contact:

Wildlife Rescue Assocation of Burnaby (WRA) Care Centre : (604) 526-7275

Critter Care Wildlife Society: (604) 530-2064

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