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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

“Stink, Stank, Stunk.” It’s a Skunk!

Scott Hendricks, the Blairstown animal control officer, wants you to know:

It’s that time again….

It’s late February here in New Jersey which means the skunks are getting active. It’s mating season for skunks here in the Garden State, so if there was ever a chance that your cat or dog might get sprayed, it’s now. In fact, you should probably be on high alert for them from now through late March.

So, what should you do if your pet gets sprayed?

A quick Google search will confirm many people have success with a mixture of baking soda, dish detergent, and hydrogen peroxide. There are plenty of different ratios you can try, but the most common one has you mixing a quarter-cup of baking soda, two teaspoons of dish detergent, and one whole quart of hydrogen peroxide. Now, you’ll need to make sure that the peroxide is 3%. It’ll say the percentage on the bottle.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), you’re supposed to mix it in a bucket and apply it as soon as possible. You need to really coat your dog or cat’s fur and then let it sit for a few minutes, The instructions say five, but knowing myself, I’d let it sit for 10 minutes. After letting it sit, you can rinse and shampoo your pup. Repeat if necessary.

General Skunk Facts:
• North American Species include –
Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis, most common);
Eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius);
Hooded skunk (Mephitis macroura); and,
Hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus leuconotus)
• Average Size: 20-30″ long (including the tail); 6-10 lbs.
• Average Lifespan in the Wild: two to four years
• Identifying Features: black and white fur; strong forefeet and long claws for digging.

Skunk Geography: The most common and recognized skunk species in North America is the striped skunk, whose range extends from the southern half of Canada to the northernmost parts of Mexico, covering most of the continental United States.

The spotted skunk has a range that covers most of the United States and Mexico, although the species is a bit less populous than the striped skunk. Even less common are the hooded and hog-nosed species, which are only native to parts of the Midwest, southwest and Mexico.

Skunk Habitat: Skunks are extremely adaptable and thrive in many different habitats, as long as food and shelter are available. Because they rarely travel more than two miles from their established dens, a skunk will typically settle down within two miles of a water source. Dens are made in tree hollows, hollowed out logs, brush piles, abandoned animal burrows, as well as underneath porches and other structures. Skunks will occasionally dig their own burrows underground if no other shelter options are available.

Skunk Diet: Though they typically prefer to dine on insects and grubs, skunks are omnivores, consuming a vast diet of both plant and animal matter. Skunks are opportunistic eaters, and their diets are flexible, often shifting with the seasons.

Skunk Behavior:

• Activity: Skunks are nocturnal, so they are most active at night. They do not hibernate, but they tend to be inactive during the coldest months in winter, when many gather in communal dens for warmth. For the remainder of the year, skunks are generally solitary, living and foraging alone.
• Reproduction: Mating season is one of the only other times when skunks tend to socialize. Skunks have litters of one to seven young in late April through early June.
• Digging: Skunks have strong forefeet and long nails, which make them excellent diggers. They dig holes in lawns, gardens and golf courses in search of food like grubs and earthworms. When no other form of shelter is available, they may even burrow underneath buildings by entering foundation openings.

• Spraying: Skunks are known to release a powerful smell through their anal glands when threatened. Skunks will usually only attack when cornered or defending their young, and spraying is not the first method of defense. A skunk will growl, spit, fluff its fur, shake its tail, and stamp the ground. If the intruder does not leave, the skunk will then lift its tail
and spray its famous skunk odor.

Skunk Diseases: Skunks can carry contagious diseases, viruses and parasites that can be transmitted to humans and/or pets through a bite.
Some of the most serious illnesses include:
• leptospirosis
• canine distemper
• canine hepatitis
• intestinal roundworm (Baylisascaris columnaris)
• rabies

Skunks and Rabies: Skunks are the primary carriers of rabies in the Midwest. Rabies is usually fatal to humans and pets unless treated immediately. If you suspect that a skunk may have rabies, do not approach it – call animal control immediately for assistance.

There are two forms of rabies in skunks: the “furious” form, where skunks become aggressive, and the “dumb” form where they become unphased by human presence. Some other signs of rabies in skunks to look out for include activity during the daytime, an unsteady or disoriented gait, drooling, and/or foaming at the mouth.

Fun Facts
• A skunk’s sulfuric spray has a range of up to 10 feet, and its odor can be detected up to one and a half miles.
• Skunks eat wasps and honeybees, and will often attack beehives.
• Immune to snake venom, skunks are known to eat poisonous snakes like rattlesnakes.
• Although skunks have very poor eyesight, they have excellent senses of smell and hearing.
• A group of skunks is called a surfeit.

skunk story
Beware of skunks. Helpful tips