Going Wild: Pepe the skunk

Published On: Jul 11 2014 02:46:00 PM HST

Meet Pepe -- a North American skunk with a bold white stripe and friendly attitude.

But, keeping him as a pet is not the best idea, right?  Keepers say we've got it all wrong.

Click here to watch Ashley Moser's report.

"He's a lot easier than my dog.  But, that's OK," said zoo keeper Nancy Leong while laughing.

Leong has been training Pepe since he was 10 weeks old.  She says, at first, he was skittish, but now allows her to carry and harness him.

"For any person that works with animals to see how much he trusts you is truly an award itself," said Leong.

She says there are 11 different species of skunks, mostly found in North America.  They are nocturnal eaters surviving on plants, insects and even small mammals.

If you take a look at Pepe's hands, his nails are extremely long.  That's because they use them to dig up insects in the ground.

Keepers call it forging.  They tend to dig about 3 inches into the ground.  But, it's the way these guys fend off attackers that people are most curious about.  Do they spray their offensive odor just for fun?

"They are pretty much forced to spray, but that's with any animal," said Leong.  "If you back them up into a corner, you will get sprayed."

The spray is a mix of strong liquid stored in two glands.  If you get up close and personal with Pepe, keepers say there's no need to worry those glands have been removed.

Here in Hawaii, it is illegal to have a skunk as a pet.  But, Honolulu Zoo keepers say Pepe is serving as an ambassador for his species giving island keiki an opportunity to learn more about the mainland animal.

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PHOTOS: Going Wild, an animal series

Click here to see photos from Ashley Moser's Going Wild series.


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