Walkin' Wild Skunk Rescue

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Skunks in Daylight - Shedding Light on a Dark Myth

   Everyone knows that skunks who are out in the daylight are rabid, right?  WRONG!!  This is the horrible myth that gets probably thousands of innocent, healthy skunks killed every year.  Skunks are nocturnal so it is assumed that they wouldn't like the light of any kind.  (Technically, they are crepuscular, which means they come out about dusk and dawn.)  If there were just one thing that I could tell the whole world about skunks it is that this myth is wrong.  The majority of skunks who are seen in the daylight are hungry mothers.  During baby season their feeding habits are reversed.  At night time the den is more prone to predation than during the day so the mother stays in at night to protect her litter.   When her kits are old enough at about 5 - 6 weeks old she will lead them out with her to start teaching them how to hunt for bugs.  After the kittens are weaned at about 8 weeks old the family begins to develop a more natural sleeping and eating pattern.  

  A common deterant method given as advice often times is to leave porch lights on or a flood light, the reasoning being that nocturnal skunks must not like light.  This too is wrong.  Skunks do not mind light of any kind at all.  Whether it is the sun or massive flood lights.  The lights attract lots of bugs.  The bugs attract skunks for an easy meal!  They don't care at all about the light. 
  I do a soft release for my orphans and many of them tend to hang around through mating season before disappearing for good.   During this period I see them out at all hours of the day and night, at all ages, male or female.  Skunks just don't care how we humans have labeled and restricted them to the darkness.  But they unfortunately pay a costly price for our ignorance.  
   Read my page on rabies if you are concerned about a skunk in your yard.   
 Murphy, another of Meggie's big brothers

Skunk Behavior

  To Spray or Not to Spray? 

 Meggie's twin brother

  I often hear people say they came across a skunk in their yard but it didn't spray them.  They are always surprised, as if they had escaped an inevitable fate upon only having seen a skunk.  I dare say it is harder to get a skunk to spray than one might think.  Unless of course there is a charging, barking dog involved. 

   Skunks are very near-sighted.  Even though you see him, he may not see you. He may even be so engrossed in digging for the yummy bugs in your yard that he could wander up to your foot before he notices you. Do not mistake this for dumb rabies.  Skunks walk around with their noses to the ground, always looking for bugs and other tasty snacks.  Once a skunk does take notice of you he will likely throw his tail up in the air and stamp his front feet.  This is the first alert warning, he is saying "I see you there, now go away."  This is where smart people calmly leave the scene.  If you stay, what happens next is the skunk will do a short charge then stomp and drag, charge, stomp and drag.  He is trying to scare you away, you should listen to him and leave casually. This is normal behavior and not a sign of aggressive rabies. If the perceived threat does not heed his warnings then he gets really mad and starts doing hand stands.  He will do a short charge, stomp, hand stand holding his back end into the air hoping this will be scary enough to make you leave.  If this still has not scared away the predator or you, then the skunk will turn himself in a U shape, viewing his target to take aim, then opens fire.  An adult skunk can hit a target 15 ft. away with accuracy.  Not bad for a near-sighted animal.  Skunk scent glands can hold enough fluid for several attacks, however, once the glands are empty it takes some time for them to refill.  The skunk knows that this leaves him vulnerable so he does not want to use his precious, protective fluid unless he absolutely has to.  Therefore he is not going to walk around spraying everything and everyone in sight.  Skunks rarely do a spontaneous spray unless it is in immediate danger, as is most often when dealing with dogs.  So if you treat the skunk with respect and walk away calmly he will not bother you.

a skunk social party 8 weeks old

    Often people will shoot a skunk on sight just for fear of getting sprayed.  Or shoot as revenge for their dog getting sprayed. It is their action of killing that causes the stink, thus creating what they wanted to prevent - a smelly yard.  Skunk odor from a killed animal is very strong and can linger for days. It is a cruel and quick judgment handed down needlessly.  I encourage tolerance of skunks in your yard.  They are not there to hurt or spray anyone without provocation.  Leave her alone and she will leave you alone.  That goes for the dog too, but we all know dogs never learn that lesson. 

  Skunks are nature's pest control. They eat many of the creepy things you don't want in your house or yard such as brown recluse spiders, black widow spiders, scorpions,wasps, bees, mice, moles, poisonous snakes, etc.  The grasshoppers that are destroying your garden make a nice meal for skunks, solving your problem without using harmful pesticides. They are not likely to eat anything from your garden unless you happen to be growing some sort of yummy berries. Skunks eat mostly bugs, and small rodent type animals, more so than plant material. Having a skunk around is beneficial to the environment.  They really are easy-going critters just minding their own business.  They don't cause a lot of trouble the way some other wildlife can. They don't chew on things the way squirrels or rodents do and they don't climb.  You can take preventive measures to deter a skunk if it has become a nuisance.  See my nuisance page for more information on that.  


Bookends! 7 weeks old


The Life Story of a Skunk  by Constance Casey 


  This is a very well written and accurate article on skunk behaviors, with a touch of humor.