Walkin' Wild Skunk Rescue

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The Smell Factor


Meggie doing her best Mae West,  "Hey there big boy!" 

    Allow me to define some terminology and explain a few things regarding skunk musk. 
    To "spray" - typically if there is odor then it is said that a skunk has sprayed.  I would like to correct that common misunderstanding.  When a skunk "sprays" it is in a defensive posture with intent and purpose - to back off an attacker.  
   There are other times however when a skunk may emit musk without a defensive cause.  When it is injured, ill or dying a skunk may, or may not, emit some musk. This is more of an involuntary reaction, similar to an accidental passing of wind or stool.  When it is dying it is a relaxing of the gland muscles.   When an orphan gets hurt somehow, it will give a squirt in reaction to the pain and fright. This is mostly involuntary. Also during mating there is commonly discharge of the glands because mating is violent with skunks. The aggression is what causes the female to ovulate, and express her glands in the process.   
  When babies become toddlers in a rehab setting and you add other toddlers to the cage, or should they become startled or confronted, there will be "whiffing" among them.  "Whiffing"  is not a true spray, it is more like a reaction, a passing of wind so to speak.   
  A skunk is born with its scent glands and is capable of emitting some degree of musk from day one. The only cause for one so young to emit musk would be injury.  Before they open their eyes a skunk has no real reason to spray, they cannot see a would-be target, nor do they feel the need to defend.  The only thing a baby skunk with its eyes still closed wants is to be taken care of.  Once their eyes open, between 14 - 28 days, they become suddenly aware of their surroundings and startle easily.  They may throw their tail up frequently but that does not necessarily mean they are ready and willing to spray.  The raised tail is merely a reaction and indicates a healthy, alert skunk. 
 A raised tail can also be a sign of playfulness. 

    Most people are afraid of skunks because they fear getting sprayed just by the mere presence of the animal.  I dare say that it is harder to get a skunk to spray  than one might think.  Skunks do not spray because we expect them to.  Skunks spray to defend themselves.  A chance encounter with a skunk in your yard or the park is no cause for alarm.  Simply remain calm and walk away casually and no one will get sprayed.  A skunk will give many warnings before resorting to spray.  They stomp their front feet, they stomp and drag back, they will do short charges then go into hand stands.  Given every opportunity  a skunk will run away rather than spray.  They carry enough fluid for several sprays, however, once the glands are spent it takes a little time for them to refill, thus leaving the skunk vulnerable for a time.  This is the last thing a skunk wants, therefore they use their weapon wisely and sparingly.   

  There is one situation that I commonly hear about that I am unsure of the cause. I often hear that skunks under a house or barn are stinking the place up. To be honest, I am not sure why they do this, though I would like to figure it out. It is frequently the trigger for people to set traps.  

   When I approach any skunk situation I do it with calm caution, slow easy movements. I do not fear them so I am not emitting any negative energy for them to pick up on.  Animals sense our anxieties and respond accordingly.  


          How to remove the odor from pets or objects 

    To remove skunk odor from your pet try this homemade remedy rather than tomato juice, which does not actually remove the odor, it only covers it up.  

   1 qt. hydrogen peroxide,

   2 tbs. baking soda,

   1 tsp Dawn dish soap.

  Mix together in a bucket, do not add water & do not save mixture as it may become volatile, use right away.  Sponge onto your dogs face and ears being extra careful not to get into the eyes, nose or ears.  Pour over entire body & work it into the fur.  Let stand for a few minutes then rinse well with warm water.  Repeat if necessary.  

  The chemical combination of the peroxide and baking soda changes the molecular makeup of the musk to remove the scent.  Dawn dish soap is known for its ability to remove oil safely from wildlife.   

   How to remove odors from your home

  There is no absolute perfect method for removing the smell completely and instantly from an enclosed area, however, there are a few things you can do help dissipate the odor faster.  Aerosols tend to just cover up the smell, if they even manage that.  Placing charcoal in several disposable tin pans around the scented area will help absorb the odor. To increase this effectiveness try adding baking soda to the bottom of the pans first, then charcoal on top of that. Cedar balls used for closet or storage fresheners also work well at absorbing odor while freshening at the same time. 

If possible, open the windows and turn on the fans to help air out the area also.