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February 12, 2013

Ooooh, That Smell...Must Be Skunk

February kicks off mating season for skunks

The Humane Society of the United States

  • He may not be Pepé Le Pew, but this striped skunk is ready to play the dating game iStockphoto.com

February through March is mating season for striped, hog-nosed, and hooded skunks, and that translates into "skunk smell."

The stink occurs when males try to court females who may not be "in the mood." When that happens, female skunks generate an aroma to repel their rejected suitors. Fortunately, skunk romance only lasts a short time.

Skunks are gentle, non-aggressive creatures who have wrongly earned a bad reputation because of that pungent odor. Their diet of grubs, insects, mice, and baby rats is actually beneficial, but skunks still go unappreciated.

As for being sprayed by a skunk, you may not realize just how difficult it is to get sprayed. When alarmed, skunks give a warning by stamping their front feet. If you take heed of that warning, they won't spray.

De-skunking the dog

Dogs, on the other hand, ignore this warning, which is why they do get sprayed. Here is our recipe to deodorize skunked dogs:

  • Mix a quart of hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup baking soda and a teaspoon of liquid dish soap.
  • Bathe the dog in it and rinse. The odor should disappear in minutes.

Common conflicts with skunks and how to solve them »

Fast facts about skunks

  • 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 animals, except when raising young or sharing a den during cold periods. 
  • 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 by nature. 
  • Once classified as members of the Mustelid family (a group that includes weasels, martens, and badgers), skunks are now placed in a family group all 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 him 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 the exiting tracks.

Resources

» If you are located within the D.C. Metro Area, take advantage of our wildlife conflict resolution service.
» Purchase a copy of Wild Neighbors, the go-to guide for useful, humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife. 

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