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Do not be confused: Flower is the first name (she only goes by one name like Cher or Madonna) of our resident skunk this year. I haven’t actually smelled her around the farm lately. I smelled someone else on my way home one evening. It was a welcomed warning smell, so we can be prepared.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Flower, I just want to be on alert when the mating season begins.
Walk outside with the dog at night or in the pre-dawn hours of the morning and there could be an accidental encounter. It has happened to me before, and the experience stuck around unpleasantly for weeks.
Skunk in the dog’s nostrils, on the bottom of my shoes, the stoop of the back door, on the drive way and phantom smells that followed me to work or bed each day for a month! It was awful.
The striped skunk sleeps away most of the day in a cozy den somewhere. They venture out at night in search of food and love, at least this time of the year.
Late January and February is mating season for the striped skunk, which calls for some extraordinary behavior compared to the rest of the year.
Skunks are typically active from dusk to dawn, which is a little odd because they have poor eyesight. They have a good sense of smell, however, and rummage around at night for a meal of small rodents, grubs and other meaty insects. A rotten stump with a host of living creatures is a treat if you are a skunk.
Over the years we have been host to many a skunk. A den in the barn one year, a nightly cruise around the house another and of course the encounter on the driveway with the dog one morning before work.
We knew our girl Flower by sight because of her markings. Skunk stripes are quite distinctive. I have seen some that actually look like all stripe (they were almost entirely white) other have a splash of white.
We could always tell that who ever was roaming about at night this time of the year was a visitor looking for Flower. Females usually stay within a half a mile of their dens; males roam far and wide during mating season looking for her (this is also why we see so many dead on the road in February).
Males are polygamous, so the females end up being the sole caregivers of their litters, which can be anywhere from one to eight babies. Baby skunks, called kittens, are born in April and May with a gestation period that lasts about 63 days. So if you do the math, most skunks will be busy in the next several weeks.
Here are some things to be aware of if you know you have skunks in your area.
If you receive a direct hit, it is not comparable to the general skunk smell. Rather the stench is a combination of burning rubber, sharp, fresh garlic and a little sulfur. The animal lives up to its Latin name, Mephitis mephitis, which translates as “bad odor, bad odor”.
If it happens to you, the best solution I have used thus far is a mixture of one-quarter cup of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of Dawn dishwashing detergent and a pint of peroxide. It works well, although a hint of skunk will remain if it’s a direct hit.