We all know the distinct foul odor of skunks. In fact, many of us can identify that pungent odor from fairly far away. The smell is enough to make even the strongest among us feel ill and burn our noses and eyes. It is no wonder they have a reputation that precedes them. But is that reputation really just a misunderstanding? Let’s take a closer look at skunk behavior and what it means if you have a smelly visitor on your property, or heaven forbid, in your home!
Skunks are easily identifiable by their unique black and white striped appearance and fluffy tail. These adaptable and opportunistic animals inhabit most of North America, from southern Canada to Mexico, and from coast to coast. Skunks thrive in many different habitats, as long as food and shelter are available. They rarely travel more than two miles from their established dens, and a skunk will typically settle down within two miles of a water source.
Many homeowners mistakenly believe that when they encounter a skunk it is purposely trying to spray them or their pets. In fact, skunks, like many animals are more frightened by humans than anything else. A skunk has usually entered your yard or property to gather food either from your garbage or grill area. Usually this food is intended for its young or other family members.
Studies by the Mass Audubon Society have shown that skunks use their spray as a defense mechanism when trapped or pursued. Given the opportunity, however, they would prefer to walk away from danger and spray only as a last resort. Additionally, skunks will give a warning that it’s about to spray by arching its back, raising its tail high in the air, turning its back toward the enemy, and stomping its front feet. Should you and a skunk meet “face-to-face,” stand still or slowly back away so the skunk doesn’t feel trapped.
The National Wildlife Federation reports that a skunk may emit a mere whiff of odor to repel a minor annoyance or, when fleeing a predator it can’t see, release a cloud of foul musk that can stop a pursuer in its tracks. For its most intense, targeted attack, a skunk twists into a U-shape so that both eyes and rump confront the threat, then aims a stream of noxious liquid right at its enemy’s face. Gagging, pain in the sensitive membranes of the nose and mouth, even temporary blindness can result from a direct hit. All of this is done as defensive measure to protect itself and/or its young. Self defense is a common characteristic of most wildlife.
So, you decide. Are skunks malicious or just protecting themselves? If you have a skunk problem on your property, call Pest-End Exterminators at 1-800-287-4321, 603-382-9644, or 978-794-4321.