Lansing man gets second chance with rare skunk
Ray Ziarno took the photo of a white skunk in his backyard. The skunk visited a second time after Ziarno realized his camera batteries were dead. (Photo: Ray Ziarno/Courtesy photo)
LANSING – Ray Ziarno’s heart leapt when he spotted an unusual animal under his two bird feeders, munching on spilled seeds.
It was a large, nearly all-white furball that Ziarno thought might be a skunk, sans the distinctive Pepé Le Pew white stripes up a black body. He ruled out possum, woodchuck or raccoon. And it wasn’t a white cat. He wondered if it might be an escaped exotic animal.
Ziarno wanted to capture the moment so he grabbed his Nikon SLR digital camera.
What he got was dead batteries.
Ziarno, a retired planner with the Michigan Department of Transportation, is an outdoorsman who loves watching birds in his yard in the Northside neighborhood near the Turner-Dodge House on Grand River.
He was disappointed that he failed to capture the image. He called Potter Park Zoo and Ingham County Animal Control wondering if an exotic animal had escaped but found no reports.
A nearly white skunk visited Ray Ziarno’s yard at his Northside home. (Photo: Ray Ziarno, Courtesy photo)
That was Thursday morning. Then he got a do-over.
The white animal came back same time, same place on Friday around 7:30 a.m. This time Ziarno was ready with charged batteries.
“It surprised me. You never get a second chance,” he said.
He captured a portrait of the animal from his second-story window, even getting a squirrel in the shot for a size comparison.
Then he drove with his camera to Rose Lake Wildlife Research Center in Bath to confer with Chad Fedewa, a Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist.
It turns out Ziarno was right. Fedewa confirmed it was a skunk but ruled out an albino skunk as the animal had a black face, black feet and some black in the bushy tail. An albino animal would be all white with pink eyes. Fedewa said “partially albino” isn’t correct either.
Fedewa said skunks can vary in color from all black to all white “and everything in between” though most typical is black with the white stripes. He said he’s never seen a skunk that white before.
“It’s not unheard of but a little unusual,” Fedewa said.
A mother skunk and six or seven babies cross Old Saginaw Highway west of Grand Ledge in this 1997 file photo. The skunk family shows more typical skunk coloration. (Photo: File photo/Lansing State Journal)
He said skunks aren’t picky eaters. They’re omnivores, dining on small rodents, frogs and vegetation. If you want to keep them away, and you probably do, make sure your garbage is contained.
Ziarno said he’s warning his neighbors to feed their dogs indoors so as not to attract the skunk and risk a stinky canine-skunk confrontation.
Lesson here? Keep your garbage covered but make sure your camera batteries are charged, just in case. You never know when a stripe-less skunk might come calling.
Ray Ziarno’s heart leapt when he spotted an unusual animal under his two bird feeders, munching on spilled seeds.
Types of White Skunks
Video of the Day
There are four genera of skunks, each of which includes several species. The vast majority of skunks in every species are black or brown with white markings. However, now and then a skunk is born with far more white fur than usual. Domestic skunk breeders capitalize on these anomalies. Through selective breeding, they can produce pure white skunks as well as a range of other fur colors such as brown, gray, cream and apricot.
Striped skunks are the most common species in North America and the preferred choice of many domestic skunk breeders. Consequently, striped skunks are the species most likely to produce one that’s all white. The skunks are bred as pets, and people looking to adopt a skunk are generally attracted to exotic shades of fur. It is very rare to find an all-white skunk not bred in captivity.
The hog-nosed skunk gets its name from its long, hairless snout. The normal fur pattern for this species is a completely white back and tail with a black belly and legs. Although these skunks are not entirely white, the black portion is not very noticeable if the skunk is hiding in vegetation. Someone glancing at a hog-nosed skunk in the wild could easily believe they had seen a white skunk.
A tiny percentage of wild skunks are albino. This occurs when a skunk is genetically incapable of producing melanin, the pigment that colors the body. The red eyes are the distinguishing characteristic between albino skunks and other skunks with white fur. Other skunks, regardless of fur color, have dark brown or black eyes.
Blond and Lavender Skunks
Most skunks have a variegated fur pattern of spots or stripes. A blond skunk is a light-colored skunk that still has visible patterns in its fur. Some portions of the fur are creamy white and other portions are bright white. A skunk will very rarely have fur that is white with a slight purplish hue. This is a lavender skunk.
Types of White Skunks Video of the Day There are four genera of skunks, each of which includes several species. The vast majority of skunks in every species are black or brown with white