February 12, 2013
Ooooh, That Smell...Must Be Skunk
February kicks off mating season for skunks
February through March is mating season for striped, hog-nosed, and hooded skunks, hence why their signature smell is so common around those times. Used as a defense mechanism, skunks spray each other when competing for a mate or when unreceptive to courting attempts.
Skunks are gentle, non-aggressive creatures which do not spray other species unless thoroughly provoked. Spraying only comes as a last resort, and prefer to stamp their front paws to signal their fear instead.
Feeding on grubs, insects, mice, and baby rats, skunks are useful to humans, but go unappreciated due to their poor reputation.
Dogs, unlike humans, often ignore skunks’ warning signs — if your dog does get sprayed, follow our guide to deodorize them »
- Skunks are cat-sized or smaller; all of the five species found throughout North America can be identified by their distinctive black and white coloration of either stripes or spots.
- Skunks are extremely nearsighted, yet have a very fine-tuned sense of smell.
- Skunks are solitary, except when raising young or sharing a den for warmth.
- Striped skunks, hog-nosed, and hooded skunks breed in February and March and the babies are born in May and June. Spotted skunks breed either later in the spring, in early summer, or in the fall — as is the case with western spotted skunks.
- Skunks den in natural cavities like woodchuck burrows, hollow logs, and brush piles, as well as crevices in stone walls and under buildings.
- A den is used only for brief periods because skunks are nomadic.
- Once classified as members of the family that includes weasels, martens, and badgers, skunks are now placed in a family of their own.
- Skunks can be active all year but will remain in dens during cold spells.
- Skunks often tumble into window wells and are not able to climb out due to their nearsightedness and poor climbing ability. If a skunk is stuck in a window well, it is very easy to help them out.
- Skunks follow their noses, so if a garage door is open, a skunk will likely amble in. If the skunk enters the garage, The HSUS recommends leaving a garage door open at night and sprinkling flour along the bottom of it so you can see exiting tracks.
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