Skunks definitely have a bad rap. For anyone whose dog has come home smelling of rotten eggs they can also cause an inconvenience! Skunks however, do the environment a lot of good!
A skunk’s diet consists of small mammals and insects. Many pest animals such as mice, shrews, rats, cut worms, cabbage loppers and grubs are commonly eaten. They will also forage for hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets. Skunks are not always nocturnal and will often forage during the day.
Skunks are excellent mothers and have a strong maternal bond. They will return to a disrupted nest to look for and save kits. A mother skunk raises her litter for four months before the kits move on.
In Kentucky we have two varieties of skunks; the striped skunk and the spotted skunk. The striped skunk is the “classic” skunk and is seen over much of the state in both rural and urban areas. The spotted skunk is not as common and is seen more in the southeast part of the state. Skunks are related to weasels, minks, and otters. The markings on skunks follow a pattern but are unique to that skunk. Mid February – mid March is mating season so drive slowly and watch out for skunks on the road.
· Fossil remains to 12 million years ago
· Very smart and can solve puzzles
· Very clean
· After a skunk sprays it takes 2-10 days to “refill”
· A skunk can spray as young as two weeks old
· The skunk can shoot spray up to 20 feet
· Normally there are 5-9 kits in a litter but as many as 18 may be born.
Skunks do have a serious defense mechanism. Skunk spray! Contrary to popular belief they do not seek out people or other animals to spray. In fact skunks give a warning before they spray by rapidly stopping their feet, growling and raising their tail. If the threat leaves the skunk will not waste its musk. The spray comes from two anal sacs that hold approximately 14cc of the musky sulfurous oils.
We are often afraid of skunks due to their ability to spray but skunks are fun to observe if you keep your distance and watch quietly. A skunk will only spray as a last resort.
Skunks are natural diggers and like to burrow. Unfortunately, sometimes they like to dig under house foundations or porches. If this happens you can seal off all holes and entrances with hardware cloth. Skunks cannot climb well so vertical fences are useful to protect areas. They can dig however so bury your fence a foot underground.
If you keep grains or bird seed outside that are attracting mice then you also attract skunks. Keep animal foods in metal bins with tight fitting lids so you will not attract either one.
Skunks are sometimes in need of intervention. If you have observed a baby skunk that is wondering around without a mother for several hours, has matted fur, or signs of parasites it may be an orphan. You can trap skunks or with a younger baby simply approach slowly with a towel or sheet held in front of you. Drape the towel around the body and gently place the baby in a cat carrier or sturdy box for transportation. Do not offer any food or water. Transport to a Licensed Wildlife Rehabber. It is illegal to keep skunks as pets.
▫ Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover
▫ Homemade solution by Bonnie Gulas Wroblewski owner Dove Key Wildlife Rehabilitation
1 quart hydrogen peroxide (fresh)
¼ cup baking soda
1-2 tsp liquid soap
Mix until fizzing and use immediately. Wait minimum of 5 minutes. Rinse (as cold water as you can tolerate). Repeat as needed.
Avoid eyes, mucous membranes.
Avoid contact with metal. May discolor fabric.
NEVER store in closed container
Ame Vanorio is the founder/director of Fox Run Environmental Education Center in Falmouth, Ky. We teach environmental education programs and serve a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center. Call us with wildlife emergencies at 859-242-1037.
Top Image (c)Clipart Lower image (c) ame vanorio