The Roundup -

Skunks: Friends Or Foes?


Skunks are generally mild mannered, solitary creatures that only want to stay out of everyone else’s way.

Very few occurrences upset our daily routine more than when the family dog tangles with a skunk and comes home reeking unbearably. The hideous odor skunks emit, which does contain sulfuric acid as part of the odiferous stench, lingers for days, takes quite some work to eradicate from a dog’s coat sufficiently so that we can stand to have the animal around, and of course the risk of rabies always exists with skunk encounters.

However, skunks really do serve a good purpose. They eat whatever they can scrounge, which includes insects, plant materials such as wild fruits, mice, and the eggs of birds that nest on the ground. Unfortunately, a skunk in the hen house will wreak havoc, and people who have garbage strewn around can expect skunks to help themselves to the feast.

Skunks, amiable mild-mannered critters, want to avoid us as much as we want to avoid them. These placid creatures prefer solitude and try to stay out of harm’s way. They don’t seek to start fights, and they spray that nauseous scent only as a last resort. Some researchers claim that skunks can’t stand their own malodorous scent which is why they do wait as long as possible before squirting those who get too close, but I’m not sure how anyone can make a statement like that, since I don’t know of any skunk that actually mentioned this little fact to a scientist (or to anyone else for that matter.)

Skunks do not hibernate. They will den up during the coldest months of the year, but on warm days in January it isn’t unusual to get a telltale whiff that announces in no uncertain terms that a skunk or skunks are on the prowl.

Skunks generally breed in late winter or early spring, with the litter arriving 60-75 days later, usually in May or June. Litters range from three to ten youngsters.

Although skunks have easy-going temperaments and try to avoid trouble at all costs, the animals also unfortunately carry rabies. Skunks are nocturnal animals, so the sight of a skunk wandering around during daylight hours can signal that the skunk is rabid, particularly if it seems disoriented, partially paralyzed, walks in circles, or acts aggressively.

Those who have problems with skunks can generally solve the problem with only a little effort, as skunks quickly get the hint when they are mildly harassed and will move elsewhere. Eliminate sites where skunks can live, and make sure dog food and garbage are out of reach. Skunks like elevated sheds, openings under porches, and available space beneath houses or outbuildings, so closing off these entrances also discourages skunks from moving in. Skunks also dislike ammonia, so ammonia soaked rags placed by or in suspected dens will encourage the skunks to pack their bags and find a less offensive spot in which to live.

For those unfortunate enough to come in contact with skunk spray, or who have a dog that gets a little too close to a skunk, forget the tomato juice. It doesn’t work, as the acid in tomato juice will not neutralize the odor. Rather try a mixture of a quart of hydrogen peroxide, ¼ c. baking soda, and 2 Tbsp. of any liquid dish soap. This mixture works as well as anything else you can mix or buy.

Remember, skunks aren’t bad animals. They smell terrible, and they can carry rabies, but they do help hold down the rodent population and they will do their best to stay out of the way of any other animal or human.


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