When sightings of wild skunks began coming in from the Forest of Dean, they had the whiff of truth about them.
But the news was a surprise to experts, as the animals - pictured - which are notorious for their stink glands, have never before been known to live wild in the UK.
They are native to America, Indonesia and the Philippines, but in recent weeks in the former coal-mining town of Coleford, Gloucestershire, there have been dozens of reported sightings, including litters of young.
Ozzy the female North American skunk, who has been rescued by The Vale Wildlife Hospital in Beckford, Gloucestershire after being found in the wild
The first definitive proof came on July 17, when a young female skunk, dubbed 'Ozzy', was captured and taken to a pet rescue centre.
A week later, local nurse Denise Edmunds took a photograph of another, raising suspicions there may be a colony, known as a surfeit, in the area.
The mother of two at first told her son Jack not to be so daft when he reported a sighting, telling him it was 'probably a cat'.
Native to America, Indonesia and the Philippines: Ozzy shows off her impressive black and white tail
But then she saw it herself several times and after staying up until 4am on 'skunk watch', finally managed to get a snap of it eating a leftover waffle from her bin bags.
It is not known where the animals have come from but it is likely they were being kept as pets and either escaped or were abandoned.
There are several hundred kept as pets in the UK but some have been ditched by breeders since it was made illegal to remove their stink gland in 2007.
Gloucestershire skunkbreeder Seb Miller said: 'In the U.S. they often make a den underneath garden sheds which could be what these animals are doing.'
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- They can be found in Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada through America to central South America
- The notorious feature of skunks is their anal scent glands which they can use as a defensive weapon.
- They grow up to 94cm long
- They can weight up to 8.2kg
- Skunks eat both plant and animal material and changing their diet as the seasons change. They eat insects, worms, small rodents, lizards, frogs, snakes, birds, moles and eggs as well as leaves, berries, roots and fungi.
- During the day they shelter in burrows that they dig with their powerful front claws, or in other man-made or natural hollows as the opportunity arises
- Skunks hibernate in winter
- The mother is very protective of her kits, and will often spray at any sign of danger. The male plays no part in raising the young and may even kill them.