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WICHE: Skunk season is upon us

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Skunks are mostly nocturnal, nomadic and solitary…except during their mating season. We don’t see them too often, and when we do, it is usually road kill this time of the year.

By Jeneen Wiche

I suppose every day is potentially skunk season, but right about now things start to heat up.  Mating season is upon us, so skunks are on the move a bit more than usual.

I have been reminded as such by a faint funk in the garage every morning this past week.

I learned a serious lesson several years back when the dog got a direct shot to the face, and we had a lingering stench that was other worldly.

 Skunks are mostly nocturnal, nomadic and solitary…except during their mating season. We don’t see them too often, and when we do, it is usually road kill this time of the year.

When it comes to the striped skunks in our area, their general behavior consists of sleeping in some sort of den during the day.

We have had skunks at the farm take up residence in old fox dens, groundhog holes and in the barn.

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 working to expedite the process of decay is a treat if you are a skunk. 

Several years ago (probably the same year Buck got skunked in the face), we had a skunk that would cruise around the house every evening.

We would go from window to window trying to catch a glimpse of the resident skunk rummaging in the mulch, and when we finally caught a glimpse, we were struck by the fact that “our” skunk was nearly all white.

So it is not that they have white stripes but rather two black bands on their sides that are more or less there!

This white skunk was probably a female because she was a regular. The males are the ones really on the move and as such the ones that get hit by cars more frequently.

Females usually stay within a half a mile of their den, and males push on nightly in search of love.

Males are polygamous, so the females end up being the sole caregivers of their litters that average 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 are pretty busy right now.

Here are some things to be aware of if you know you have skunks in your area:

§       Skunks have abnormally large musk glands on both sides of their rear end. The musk has an oily component to it, so it sticks.

§       Skunks have amazing accuracy when it comes to fending off those that threaten them.  They can hit their mark perfectly at 6 feet and have generally good aim up to 20 feet.

§       If you come across a skunk and she starts stamping her front feet, run.  Just before they release their musk, they give a warning stomp, rise up on their front legs, lift up their rear and, bull’s-eye, you’ve been skunked.

§       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 you do get a hit, the best a mixture for a wash is a quarter cup of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of Dawn dishwashing detergent and a pint of peroxide.

 It works better than most other concoctions we have tried.