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  • USA Wildlife Removal Education Guide - Do skunks warn before spraying?

Do skunks warn before spraying?

If you happen to run across a skunk and appear to be aggressive, you make just be a victim of its infamous spray. Do not worry; if you pay attention, there are plenty of warning signs that you have made our friend the skunk very angry. In an attempt to keep from having to spray their scent—because spraying leaves them defenseless until their glands can "reload"—a skunk will run threaten you with a series of moves intended to intimidate, his attacker. These moves usually including stomping on the ground, growling, hissing, slapping their tail and, sometimes they even try an awkward handstand-dance. If you think a skunk is going to spray, watch the stripes! The stripes down skunks’ back actually point to the spray area the noxious spew comes out!

Ever wonder how skunks evolved this pungent spray as a self-defense mechanism? A study conducted in 2014 found it was directly related to the animals feeding habits. Animals that hunt and forage in the daytime are more likely to be attacked carnivorous birds. They tend to rely on a keen ability to watch the skies for signs of danger. Skunks are nocturnal and solitary, so the danger for them lies in terrestrial attacks. They are protected by their ability to spray a potent and noxious substance thereby stunning predators. The official name given to the skunk family is Mephitidae; it literally means, "stink."

A Skunk can shoot that sulfur-smelling spew almost ten feet directly from their anal glands. It is highly affected as the offensive smell lingers for days sometimes weeks, the spray is highly irritating to sensitive tissue and can sometimes cause temporary blindness or severe skin irritation. Even if you are not around when a skunk sprays, you can detect the scent from up to a mile downwind. The gaseous mixture spray by a skunk is also flammable. This is not how the skunk uses it of course, but just an interesting fact. It is an unusual side effect of spraying the highly combustible sulfur based compound of thiols, found most commonly in onions and garlic.

Should a skunk spray you (or your pet)), soap and water will do you no good. Old wives tales say to douse yourself in tomato juice. This doesn’t l get rid of the scent, but it helps at masking it. In order to completely alleviate the smell, you must alter the chemical construct of the thiols. Fortunately, this can be easily accomplished with a simple mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.

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