Everyone is familiar with this black and white animal, and its ability to spray a nauseating fluid when irritated.
Skunks are infamous for leaving behind malodorous stench under homes. They also damage gardens by nibbling on all kinds of vegetation and topple trash cans which ultimately attracts rodents and other pests to our homes.
Generally, skunks get a bad reputation, but there is an interesting behavior behind these critters’ smelly outcast. Here are 8 things you didn’t know about skunks:
8 Interesting Facts About Skunks
1. They are Categorized in a Family of Their Own
Skunks officially belong to the family Mephitidae in the taxonomy table. Mephitidae is a Latin word meaning stink – it can get any accurate than this.
They were initially grouped in the same family with badgers, otters, and weasels in the family Mustelidae. But unlike these animals, skunks spray their musk from an anal gland in a controllable manner.
This skunk family has close to ten different species which come in different coloration and sizes.
2. Skunks Are Actually Carnivores
Even though they’ll eat anything from the garbage can, skunks are technically classified as carnivores. Their diet is usually based on a seasonably available prey – small animals during the winter and fall, and insects during the summer and spring.
3. Their Musk is Their Last Resort
Skunks are shy animals that will avoid conflict as much as possible. In fact, they’ll always choose flight over fight.
But when they feel threatened they take a few steps backward, raise their tail, and spray you with their smelly musk.
Here’s a tip: the next time you come face to face with a skunk in your yard, a simple “shoo!” will save you the stench.
4. Their Spray is Pretty Powerful
Skunks can spray their musk up to 10 feet away. Apart from the pungent smell that can linger for up to two weeks, their spray is irritating enough to cause temporary blindness.
Moreover, this unpleasant smell can be detected by people a mile downwind.
5. Their Smelly Defense Mechanism Is Because They’re Nocturnal
Why do skunks have a malodorous self-defense tactic while other similar animals like meerkat utilize their large numbers for safety?
A study showed that this had to do with when a potential predator was active. Rodents that are active daytime are vulnerable to predators like carnivorous birds. Therefore, they depend on lookouts for warning in case of danger.
On the other hand, skunks are solitary and nocturnal, and therefore, more at risk to terrestrial predators. Their smelly musk is, hence, more effective.
6. They Have a Little Warning Dance Before They Shoot
Before they spray, skunks will try to scare off a predator with an intimidating warning dance. In fact, they try to avoid spraying at their predator because it will render them helpless until they can “reload.”
The skunk’s series of maneuvers will include slapping their tails, stomping on the ground, and trying to look larger than their actual size.
7. Their Stripes Point Out to Their Sprayers
A National Geographic study showed that animals that chose fight over flight often had marks that drew attention to their best weapon.
So if it seems like the stripes on skunks are pointing to where the nauseating spray comes from, that’s because they are. Moreover, other animals like the badgers have stripes on its face which highlights their sharp teeth.
This will help keep off predators while conserving energy. It’s better to intimidate a threat than to actually spray them, right?
8. Can Skunks Climb Trees?
Skunks have long claws and sharp teeth for digging, but are not good climbers. They may try to climb boards, fences, and wire mesh, but they rarely climb trees. Their long, sharp nails are a definite handicap when it comes to climbing.
How Can You Get Rid of Skunks at Your Home?
Consider compassionate choices when you decide to get rid of skunks. Some effective methods include:
- Properly securing your garbage cans and avoiding trash to pile up in your home.
- Cleaning your yard regularly and removing any fruits that may have fallen.
- Using natural skunk repellants such as predator urine (from animals like coyotes, dogs, or wolves), ammonia, mothballs, citric smell, and cayenne pepper.
- Using motion-activated sprinklers and floodlights.
- Trapping and relocating the skunks in your home.
- Installing a fence around your home – remember, skunks are awful climbers.
Skunks can stink, but they are just trying to get along in this cruel world, just like us. Often, skunks will pass through your home and you won’t even know about it.