Jan 9, 2014

Another Yoplait casualty

This rescue was sponsored by Bodhi Matus


Yesterday morning, we were contacted by a resident who lives in the beautiful, wooded Santa Cruz Mountains of Los Gatos. His dogs had alerted him of something in the yard. When he went to investigate, he found a skunk with its head stuck in a Yoplait yogurt container, shivering at the base of a retaining wall. 

Because of how his dogs had been acting for the last couple of days, the skunk may have been in trouble for a while. Not being able to eat or drink, and fighting for air, the animal would not last long.

WES founder and lead responder, Rebecca Dmytryk, rushed to the scene. Here's her account of the rescue:

The home was located way, deep in the mountains - very rural, few fences, and lots of acreage between neighbors. Quite lovely. Odd, though,... I thought,... to find an animal caught up in garbage in such a pristine, unpopulated area. It must have broken into a recycling bag or garbage bin. 

When I arrived on scene, the RP, Gary, led me to the skunk. It was tucked up, sleeping, under a bush at the top of a pretty steep and slippery slope.



It was a bit of a challenge to reach the skunk. There was no way to stealthily sneak up on it, with the dried leaves and twigs and snapping of branches, but, the skunk kindly tolerated my noisy approach, at least until I grabbed hold of his tail.

If... if you can get hold of a skunk's tail and tuck it under, it might squirt a little juice, but it won't spray all over. Just FYI.

I used a bed sheet to shield me from spray as I maneuvered close. Once on top of the skunk, I slowly placed my gloved hands over its body, with little fuss, then clutched its tail to pull it out from under the bush. It wasn't capable of biting, so I focused on getting control of the sprayer.

I pulled the skunk to me, folding its tail under, and "burrito-wrapping" it in the sheet before tucking it between my legs to get a look at the cup - maybe I could remove it right there.

I gently pulled on the container, thinking it might slide right off, but, no. I pulled a little harder. Nope. Wow!


I carried the bundled skunk to a more comfortable spot where I could work on it. I cut the rim of the cup, then an inch more, then had to manipulate the plastic back to get it off the animal's face - it was REALLY on there!!! 

There it was - the skunk's lovely face. It looked SO relieved. It just sat there, not struggling, but just taking in the surroundings - it could see again! It bobbed its head up and down taking in the crisp, fresh air.

Not knowing how long it had gone without food and water, it would be held overnight and given a chance to recuperate before being set free. 






First, though, we needed to treat it for hypothermia, as it had been exposed to the elements overnight.

I placed the little skunk into a transport container that was outfitted with a large SnapHeat pad. These are portable and reusable heating pads that can provide warmth for hours.


Click HERE to send us a SnapHeat 
warmer from our Amazon Wish List.









After a full day of rest and a good meal, the skunk was given a final once over and deemed ready for release. 

Late this afternoon, I transported it back to the mountains, and found a safe spot off the roadside, below the property it was taken from. There was a culvert for it to hide in and a very old hollowed out redwood.


Check out the video of the skunk's rescue and release:


In case the embedded video doesn't play, click HERE



There's even more to this story... As I was setting up the cameras for the release, a neighbor drove by, headed home. He slowed and rolled down his window. I started off the conversation with "What is this strange person doing on My Road, right?", and proceeded to tell him of the skunk with the Yoplait container on its head. He said he'd seen that skunk. What? Really? "Around Christmas," he said. 

He was positive. He recalled telling the story at a Christmas party, about how he saw a large skunk with a red yogurt cup stuck to its face and it was trying desperately to get it off, but didn't know what to do or whom to call. 

This was definitely not the same skunk. It could not have lived without food and water for so long. We can only hope that skunk was able to remove the container from its head...

It's a bit of a mystery. Was there one Yoplait container or two? The code on this particular cup reads 00323. If this is a Julian date, it reads November 19th. Hmmm.

Also interesting, the aluminum foil top to the yogurt container was folded up at the bottom of the cup, as if the consumer had thoughtfully placed it there - perhaps thinking to recycle all of it. Perhaps the skunk(s) tore through a bag of recyclables?

Either way, let this story be a reminder to all - please crush or cut up Yoplait containers before discarding them.

As for General Mills, makers of Yoplait - CHANGE THE DAMN DESIGN OF THE CONTAINER!

UPDATE: 1-15-14

WES has launched a campaign on Change.org, asking General Mills to remove the flange from the "vercon" cups to make them less hazardous to wildlife. Please add your voice and sign the petition, HERE.



42 comments:

  1. I'm well aware of these Yoplait containers, but I thought Gen Mills had changed their design long ago to a large opening without the flange. My husband buys the "lite" version at Costco, and I'm sure those containers have a large opening. I will look carefully at our next purchase.

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    1. Yes, please let us know - maybe send a picture of the cup. We've heard the "safe" cups are only found through large distributers, like Costco. It would be great to confirm this. Thank you!

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    2. I won't buy ANY Yoplait products as long as they're still selling any of the wildlife killing version. To me, the fact that they market a non-deadly package while they continue to sell the deadly package, after literally decades of protests and letters informing them about this issue, makes them even more culpable in these deaths.

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    3. I think I've seen the new ones, but i'm pretty sure they still have the old containers too. I also won't buy yoplait until they get rid of their old containers altogether.

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  2. please fix this--no more cruel senseless deaths!

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  3. I came by a young skunk a couple summers ago, with a Yoplait container on his head. He was in the middle of an intersection in the wee hours of the morning. He was going in circles because everytime he would get to a curb, his cup would hit it, and he would turn and go back. I felt so sorry for him, and knew someone would hit him, if I didn't help quick. I know it was probably dumb, but with no time (or help) on my side, I got out of the truck. He came right up to me, as if he knew I was going to help him. I pulled the cup in the air and took him off his feet a bit. I just jiggled it and he fell out. He went directly to mom, who was behind my truck (unbeknownst to me!) No spraying--just two thankful skunks. It makes me very sad to know this happens a lot. The small town has some big trash bins right in the middle of town, which I'm sure he had gotten in to.

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    1. Thank You for helping that poor little skunk.

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    2. Carol Dimm-KeeferMarch 6, 2014 at 11:32 PM

      Thanks for your bravery in saving this poor little skunk!

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  4. Please change the design of your cups.As of reading this article I am no longer buying Yoplait yogurt.

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  5. The thing is the new larger FLANGE doesnt help the skunk with shorter legs

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  6. Just ban buying this yogurt. .. it's bad for you r health and skunks!

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  7. Thank you for recording this and sharing this!

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  8. Same thing happened to me years ago...a little skunk was circling around on a dark back road, stopping traffic, hitting his head on the asphalt because he couldn't see where he was going and he was stuck in the cup, unable to free himself. I knew he wouldn't last long, so I insisted my mom stop and let me save him. I didn't really care if I got sprayed...he was so helpless and vulnerable. It was really a sad sight. I actually called him over to me and he came right up to me and I yanked, several times, and it was not easy to get that cup off his head. After that, he looked up at me, gratefully, and turned and sauntered off into the woods. I think of him every time I drive on that road or see a Yoplait cup.

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  9. Reading about the horrible ordeals of these poor animals has opened my eyes. I will be a lot more perceptive and conscious of packaging used on ALL products that I purchase from now on. Shame on the makers of Yoplait for knowing of the problem and doing nothing to change it.

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  10. God bless you ! OMG this is just unbelievable ! Poor little creatures
    In response to I came by a young skunk a couple summers ago, with a Yoplait container on his head. He was in the middle of an intersection in the wee hours of the morning. He was going in circles because everytime he would get to a curb, his cup would hit it, and he would turn and go back. I felt so sorry for him, and knew someone would hit him, if I didn't help quick. I know it was probably dumb, but with no time (or help) on my side, I got out of the truck. He came right up to me, as if he knew I was going to help him. I pulled the cup in the air and took him off his feet a bit. I just jiggled it and he fell out. He went directly to mom, who was behind my truck (unbeknownst to me!) No spraying--just two thankful skunks. It makes me very sad to know this happens a lot. The small town has some big trash bins right in the middle of town, which I'm sure he had gotten in to.

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  11. No more yoplait for me. Shame on General Mills. As usual the bottom line rules.

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  12. No more for me either - actually mostly my husband is the Yoplait guy - but I'm the shopper so he he's happy with whatever I buy. I'm also very disappointed in GM and will stop buying other GM products when possible - it's the least I could do. Mother Nature is taking such a beating from the human race - I'm ashamed!!

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  13. This is the first I've heard of this and I am sooooo sad about it. What a terrible way to die! We are suppose to be caring for the creatures on the earth. I am appalled at the atrocities man inflicts upon helpless creatures! I will not use Yoplait until the GM Company fixes this problem and shows a higher awareness and consideration.

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  14. I had not heard of this problem before. It's depressing that GM hasn't taken action on this despite knowing of the pain and suffering it is causing to wildlife. Please change the shape to an outward flaring, flangeless cup, and while you're at it, it would be good if you could find a biodegradable material also. In the past I remember waxed paper cups; maybe a more durable, but still quickly biodegradable waxed cellulose cup would be fine. I make my own yogurt because I don't like throwing away all those plastic cup. It's easy to make with the half gallon sized yogurt makers; and it costs about 18 cents per 8 0z. to make.

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  15. I don't buy yoplait now because they use high fructose corn starch, and aspartame in some of their products, but I will be on the lookout for their yougurt containers when out walking. Thanks for the tip and the video.

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  16. The same situation happened in my NJ town this past fall. I noticed a police car, with its lights flashing, at the end of my street. I walked down and saw an adult skunk walking in circles in the middle of the road with a Yoplait cup over its face. The officer was waiting for animal control to handle the situation. How many animals have to suffer because of this design flaw? I will never buy Yoplait again until they do the ethical thing and change this design.

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  17. I stopped buying their yogurt years ago because of the design & the danger to wildlife, & I well remember the crush the container solution when disposing the empty container. Now to read & hear how frequently these poor animals are trapped & face this danger makes me disgusted @ the lack of responsibility this company has toward good stewardship when it comes to the inherrant dangers of the design of this container to wildlife.
    Thank you for the petition & raising the awareness. I am upset they won't change the design, so now I will boycott all of the products by this company.

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  18. I have been an animal advocate for years and have seen so much cruelty with animals. GM is a VERY BIG Company and surely can change their design on the YOPLAIT YOGURT SHAPED CUPS TO: Cruelty Free Cups.....These defenseless animals have no way of defending themselves either. Thanks to all of you who saved these skunks!!! Your TERRIFIC!

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  19. Just one more thought for GM, those of us with bad hands - arthritis, carpal tunnel - cannot crush those containers.

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  20. Also watch out for those plastic rings that hold soft drinks together. Wildlife can and will get their heads caught through them. The plastic bottles are held together by those plastic rings. I cut them up before throwing away. I will not buy any more Yoplait!

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    1. Advocate for AnimalsFebruary 20, 2014 at 7:56 PM

      Thank you for mentioning the plastic rings. I was going to mention it but ran out of space. I remember years back a Canadian geese had an entire 6 pack plastic attached to his neck because it was not cut. I always cut the too.

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    2. My mother taught me years ago to cut up the plastic rings after she saw numerous pelicans with them stuck around their necks. Mom died 28 years ago but I never forget to cut up the rings. Now I'll start cutting up all plastic containers with small openings also.

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  21. I agree with the earlier respondent that the bottom line rules, So lets talk their language and let the bottom line rule.........don't buy Yoplait.

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  22. I won't buy their yogurt, and will buy alternative brands until General Mills addresses the issue completely. Thank you to all of you that helped these poor animals.

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  23. How sad that a huge corporation like General Mills puts profit before animal safety, they need to be reminded of their Civic responsibility and if more people know of this problem they can stop buying Yoplait Yogurt and will force GM to make a change!

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  24. How sad that a huge corporation like General Mills puts profits before animal safety. If people know of this problem maybe they can stop buying Yoplait Yogurt and that would "convince" GM of their Civic responsibility to the environment and wildlife and they just might change the container!

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  25. How many people would actually read the label so that they know to crush it? You certainly don't think that you need to read a yogurt's label for safety instructions!!! And then there's all the people that might read the label and either forget, not care, or as others have pointed out - not be able to crush it? No, it should not be up to the individuals but to the company making them - that's obvious. It is so cruel that knowing the not just the potential but the reality of animals it has killed, that they have not changed the design. But here's another thought - ANY yogurt supports enormous cruelty to animals because of the horrendous practices of the dairy industry - so BUY SOY YOGURT INSTEAD!! It's better for your health anyway.

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  26. Funny how it's always Skunks stuck in these containers. You people wouldn't be making up stories just to be empathetic would you?

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    1. It's probably just the size and shape of a skunks head that makes it more likely to get caught in the small opening of the container. Makes since that people have seen them in this predicament more often than other animals.

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  27. Nope - not made up. I was the homeowner who called animal rescue on this.

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  28. I buy buy Yoplait Yogurt for a family of 7 every week - I will buy another brand and tell all my friends and family until GM makes a change!!

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  29. I did not know about the wildlife problem, but I do not like the cups because of the difficulty of getting all the yogurt out. At the price they charge, I do not want to leave about half an ounce of the product in the container. No wonder the animals stick their heads in! I am not surprised so many are skunks--only omnivores or carnivores would be attracted to the sour-milk smell.
    I highly doubt that consumers like the containers, and think most would much prefer one they can get the product out of!

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  30. A couple of thoughts here: First, if you truly eat that much yogurt, buy a larger container meant for more than single servings. This cuts down on plastic waste and if an animal does get into it, it won't get stuck. Second, Yoplait is hardly yogurt, it's mostly water. There are so many other brands and better yogurts out there. Third, like previous posters have mentioned, this is far from the only product that requires cutting or crushing before disposal (see comments about soft drink rings). I have always cut or crushed products to fit more in my recycling bin for years. While the design should be changed, the oneness is also on the consumer to be responsible and read directions for disposal. For example, there is a reason many things say "Do not pour down drain." These labels are there because people have in fact poured them down the drain. Lesson to be learned here: Be responsible. Eat better yogurt. And read.

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  31. First, thank you for the rescue. Remember people, it is our responsibility to help - at least that's my belief.

    Second - I somewhere read that Yoplait stated the changing the design of the cup would hurt sales. Really???? I don't understand that one. However, knowing their product is dangerous to animals, and continuing to produce it, shows me they really don't much care about our wildlife. Ergo, I don't very much care for Yoplait.

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  32. Mankind is virus-like and is destroying the planet. Mass extinctions are going to happen in the next 100 years if we don't correct our mistakes soon.

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  33. I suggest you post a list of several general mills products and lets boycott them all. GM has known about this for years. I have called them about this more than once.

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  34. I will not buy yoplait anymore until the opening is changed. I will sign the petition and share with my friends.

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