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Where have the skunks gone?

If you’ve seen a skunk--or smelled one--in the last five years, Florida wants to know.

"I haven’t seen a dead skunk on the road for a while," said Henry Cabbage, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Neither have the agency’s biologists. They wonder whether the skunk population is taking a plunge, so they are asking the public for help.

Skunks aren’t protected by state law. The black and white animal, about the size of a house cat, is sometimes killed for its shiny fur.

But if the numbers don’t look good for the skunk, the state could decide to protect the species.

Wildlife commission biologist Kristen Nelson, who is collecting the information, said last week that she’s been taking some kidding for the skunk search.

With their stinky spray, which they can shoot up to 15 feet, skunks have an image problem. She doubts anybody will form a "Save the Skunk" Society.

But Nelson isn’t fazed.

"Every creature has some sort of importance in the ecosystem, even if we don’t know what that importance is," she said.

10/15/02 News Headlines from The Christian Science Monitor

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