Skunks: 10 Things to Know

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 @ 02:38 PM

Skunks: 10 Things to Know


Skunks are notorious pests. Whether or not you've encountered a skunk directly, you've likely heard horror stories of their love of garbage and lingering stink.

In California, skunks often make homes under sheds and houses. Not only do these pests cause inconvenience and unwanted odors, but they can also pose health threats to your family and pets.

In this blog, we walk you through what homeowners need to know about dealing with a skunk infestation.

1. Skunks Are Avid Climbers

The striped skunk has long claws that enable it to climb structures easily. For this reason, skunks often appear in fenced-off areas. Skunks are particularly adept at climbing chain link fences, but they can also scale wood piles, vehicles, and outdoor structures.

2. But They Probably Won't Climb Your Trees

Young skunks may climb trees in order to escape predators. However, as skunks get older, their long claws actually inhibit their ability to climb trees. This occurs because a skunk's claws do not grow sharp enough to penetrate tree bark.

3. Skunks Do Not Necessarily Carry Rabies

While skunks can contract rabies if exposed to the disease, their solitary nature actually prevents most skunks from ever coming in contact with a rabid animal. In fact, feral cats and stray dogs have a much higher chance of developing rabies than skunks do.

4. Rabid Skunks Can Be Prevented

Some property owners assume that the only way to prevent the spread of rabies is to dispose of animals that have the risk of being carriers. However, animal rehabilitators can vaccinate skunks against rabies with an inoculation that lasts for two years.

Additionally, all humane animal rehabilitators test skunk saliva, tears, hormones, and hair for rabies before releasing the animal.

5. Skunks Rarely Spray

Many people become jumpy when they notice a skunk because they assume that they're bound to be sprayed. In reality, spraying represents a defense tactic that skunks only use when they feel threatened. This conservation occurs because skunks produce a limited amount of their spray, which means the animals aren't eager to waste it.

If you see a skunk, stay back and don't make any loud noises or sudden movements. If the skunk decides you represent a threat, it will give you plenty of warning before it sprays. You can be pretty sure a skunk is about to spray if it stomps and turns around-its spray glands are on its backside.

6. And Skunk Spray Is Not Hazardous

Skunk spray doesn't smell very pleasant, but it isn't particularly dangerous. While many myths circulate around this substance, the spray is a skunk-specific body fluid produced for defense.

Spray doesn't contain any urine, contrary to most myths. Also contrary to most myths, skunk spray won't permanently blind you if it gets in your eyes, and the spray cannot pass rabies from a skunk to any other animal.

7. Skunks Usually Appear at Night

Skunks technically qualify as nocturnal animals. Most skunks become most active around dusk, and they may explore or hunt at any time during the night. This nocturnal nature is why you might wake up to scattered garbage or freshly dug holes when you have skunks on your property.

8. But They Can Also Appear During the Day

Unlike raccoons, however, skunk behavior includes activity throughout the day and night. Normal, healthy skunks may appear on your property in broad daylight, even when humans are nearby. Additionally, orphaned skunks may look for food and their parents for full 24-hour periods at a time.

A skunk going about its business during the day does not indicate the presence of rabies.

9. Skunks Can Become Serious Pests

Though most rumors about skunks have little or no truth to them, skunks can be serious pests. Skunks frequently burrow holes in lawns and gardens, as well as confront household pets. Like their brother raccoons, skunks also seek out food wherever they smell it, including your compost pile, garbage cans, and storage shed.

Most pest control companies categorize skunks as nuisance animals.

10. But You Cannot Relocate a Skunk Yourself

If you have a skunk on your property, it's in your best interests to reach out to a professional. The California Fish and Game Code gives you the right to remove skunks from your property, but it forbids you from relocating a skunk to another piece of land. This legal restriction protects local ecosystems from the possible spread of rabies.

If you have noticed a skunk or skunk family on your property, contact a pest control company. In most cases, humane pest control companies can trap and handle skunks easily.

Use your newfound knowledge as you avoid any skunks invading your property.

For more information on pests, both big and small, read our other blog posts.

Tags: animal trapping