Five species of skunks are found in Texas, but you probably won't ever meet one kind – the hooded skunk – unless you live in the Big Bend region. It is considered a Mexican species and has been seen only in Brewster, Presidio, Jeff Davis, Terrell, and Val Verde counties. The other four are the spotted, striped, and two species of hog-nosed skunks.
Although many of its eating habits are quite helpful to man (such as bees, wasps, rodents, and other creepy crawlies) its defensive spray makes it an undesirable visitor. If you think the skunk can fire its weapon only once, you are in for a bad surprise. Each gland holds about one tablespoon of the thick, oily musk, and it can be released in controlled amounts to give the animal five or six shots from each gland. Once the supply runs out, several days are needed to completely refill the musk sacs, but they are workable in about a day.
Since the skunk usually is a gentle, nonaggressive creature that only uses its smelly weapon for defense, the best way for you to avoid its spray is to leave the animal alone. When threatened, the skunk may give three warnings before actually spraying. First, it lowers its head, arches its back, and lifts its tail, except for the tip, which hangs limp. If the enemy doesn't back off, the skunk then rapidly stamps its front feet. Finally it lifts the tip of the tail and prepares for battle. However, if surprised or threatened, the skunk shoots immediately without warning.
The traditional remedy for removing the smell of skunk spray is a tomato juice bath. However, tomato juice, in conjunction with vinegar, only serves to reduce the stench, as it doesn’t neutralize the molecules that make skunk spray particularly pungent. Here’s a particularly effective remedy that’s safe for dogs and cats, as well as humans:
- 1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide (available at any pharmacy)
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap
Wearing rubber gloves, wash with this solution immediately after the spraying occurs. DO NOT get the solution in eyes. (If you don't have peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap on hand, use vinegar diluted with water.)
Diet: Omnivores; insects, varied plants, small mammals, and reptiles.
The best advice to follow is leave skunks alone – baby ones included.
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.
A skunk mother gives birth to a litter of two to 10 babies, or kits. Each kit weighs between 32 and 35 grams. They are born without coats, but their striped patterns are present in their skin pigmentation. By their eighth day, the kits are able to release musk from their scent glands.
Three Fun Facts About Skunks
- Immune to snake venom, skunks are known to eat poisonous snakes like rattlesnakes.
- A skunk's sulfuric spray has a range of up to 10 feet, and its odor can be detected up to 1.5 miles.
- Although skunks have very poor eyesight, they have excellent senses of smell and hearing.
Occasional skunk sightings in a neighborhood are not a cause for alarm. Because skunks are generally easy-going, they will not intentionally bother people. In fact, skunks may benefit humans by eating many insects and rodents many regard as pests.
To prevent skunks and other animals from frequenting areas of concern, you should explore ways to make the area undesirable by ensuring that there are no food sources available. Always keep garbage containers sealed and put your trash out only on the collection day.
How to keep skunks out
Preventive measures, such as removing attractants around houses, will decrease the likelihood of an unpleasant skunk encounter. This includes securing trash, covering window wells, feeding pets indoors, or if fed outdoors, removing food immediately after pets eat.
Exclusion techniques should be used proactively to prevent denning before an animal moves in. Any suspected skunk den should first be checked to determine if it has residents. This may be done by loosely filling the hole (or holes) with soil, leaves, straw, crumpled paper or similar material. If a skunk is present, the animal will easily push their way out overnight and reopen the hole. If the plug remains undisturbed for two or three nights, it is safe to assume that the hole is unoccupied and can be filled.
If trapping is necessary, a humane live release trap should be used. The trap should be covered by a large yard trash bag.
If a skunk is acting out of the ordinary such as:
- Overly friendly
- Circling or Stumbling or Disoriented
- Unusual aggression
- Overly active in the daytime