Some Known Facts About Skunks In New England
Skunks are members of the weasel family. North America has four species of skunk, with the most common being the striped skunk. Skunks have short, stocky legs and proportionally large feet equipped with well-developed claws that enable them to be very adept at digging. Most notably, skunks have the ability to discharge a nauseating musk from their anal glands and are capable of several discharges within a short period of time. Striped skunks are often characterized by prominent, lateral white stripes that run down their back, surrounded by black fur. However, skunk fur patters can be highly variable with some skunk being almost all white or all black.
Striped skunks are the only skunk species native to New England. Adults are about the size of an ordinary house cat (up to 29 inches long and weighing about 8 pounds). Adult skunks begin breeding in late January, and young are typically born between May and June. Litters commonly consist of four to six young. Skunks can have long lives in captivity, but few live beyond four years in the wild. The normal home range of the skunk is 1/2 to 2 miles in diameter. During the breeding season, male skunks may travel four to five miles each night. Females that do not wish to mate with a particular male typically will spray them, resulting in increased issues with skunks during the breeding season.
Where Skunks Live
Skunks prefer to den in abandoned woodchuck burrows, under decks, porches, sheds, woodpiles, or other secluded areas. Skunks can also be nomadic in nature, often traveling long distances in a given night to feed. Skunks are both omnivorous and opportunistic; their preferred food source being insects. Skunks will often dig up large patches of lawn in search of earth worms and grubs. This behavior is referred to as “turfing”. Skunks do not typically damage structures, but their presence around your home, and the odor that follows, can be offensive. The musk that makes up skunk spray can penetrate and linger in furniture, clothing, and carpets. Odor from skunks can contaminate items several floors away from the original source. Homeowners also report the smell of skunk odor returning on rainy days or nights. This may not be because another skunk has sprayed, rather the musk from the original incident has simply gotten wet and has now regenerated.
Steps To Take If Your Pet Comes In Contact
Skunks prefer to be left alone, but occasionally our pets will come in contact with skunk and will usually get sprayed. If a pet does get sprayed, owners should avoid touching their animals with bare hands. If your pet has been sprayed by a skunk, the best way to get rid of the smell is to combine one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap. This can be used in a bath to remove the odor.
As always, if a person or a pet does come in contact with a skunk or any wild animal, a health care professional or vet should be contacted to ensure there has been no risk of rabies exposure.