All About Skunks
Skunks are very often nocturnal by nature, preferring to forage and hunt for food after dark. However, in recent years it seems skunks have become more ‘noticeable’ around the cottage, the long black fur and two white stripes on it’s back make skunks hard not to recognize.
If you see two together, which is rare, the larger one is usually the male, they are about the size of a house cat or a toy poodle.
In this post we’ll explore a little bit about skunks and how to get rid of skunks and skunk odor.
Skunks Are Good
So are skunks a bad thing? Well…that depends on if you are upwind or downwind so to speak. Actually skunks do a good job of keeping rodent and insect populations in check, and as long as you don’t get too close, or they don’t move into your cottage, they are not bad to have around….in small numbers….
Skunks Are Bad
Everyone knows that skunks can spray a very offensive smelling musk which is their self defense from predators. If you come across a skunk and his tail raises, back up and get the ‘hell-outta-there!as fast as ya can‘ because he or she is about to spray, sending a fine spray from it’s anal glands all over anything in it’s path, including you.
Skunks can spray about five metres, which is over 15 feet and the smell hangs on for a long time afterwards. A long time….even if it only hits the ground.
Spray More Than Once
Don’t get too cocky after he sprays either, he can do it again, it’s not a one shot deal and it’s over. There have been instances where would be skunk chasers have figured it was safe after a skunk sprayed, thinking he was out of ammo so to speak, not so…..
Occasionally when strolling the woods behind our cottage, I have smelled a skunk, not strong, but obviously one had been in the area. That’s because they sometimes spray to mark their territory, something like a dog likes to do around the cottage.
Our cottage is located in an area of mixed woods, including some old farm fields and old farm buildings which makes for perfect skunk habitat.
We have seen a few skunks in recent years, more than ever before, I think because like all animals, their habitat is shrinking and they are finding themselves in places closer to humans than ever before.
In all of the occasions so far, the skunk has not sprayed, but has chosen to amble away back to the woods behind the camp.
What Do Skunks Eat?
Skunks like a variety of foods from rodents to insects to amphibians, carrion, grubs, fruits and vegetables, even birds eggs. Like bears, they are what I think is called omnivorous, meaning they will eat damm near anything they can find.
Skunks eat insects and larvae, earthworms, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles, and eggs. They also eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi, and nuts.They might even eat you if you sit still long enough….
You’re not likely to see a skunk in the daylight unless he gets rousted out of his underground burrow by development, or other animals etc, they like to sleep in the daytime and hunt at night.
My encounters have been at night, except one day while cutting wood in our little woodlot area I disturbed one that must have been sleeping in a hole under some rocks. He left the area, no issue and went to hide under the neighbor’s camp. I didn’t bother to disturb him any further.
Skunks burrow under boulders, rock piles, stumps and the part that we cottagers dread, under buildings, like cottages, sheds or *gasp* even outhouses….maybe that outhouse smell isn’t the fault of Uncle Charlie and his bake beans supper……
From what I have learned, skunks don’t hibernate, but they lay pretty low in winter, going into a deep sleep in the late fall or early winter and only getting up for a stretch during mild spells when they go look for a bite to eat or a girlfriend.
4-7 Young Skunks
Now here is what could be the bad stuff….skunks have litters of up to four to seven young, every year….that means that you could have a lot more than one skunk moseying around your cottage or living underneath it.
Although they won’t stay together forever, if the habitat in your area is to their liking, they will stay in the area.
Having a skunk around your camp is not the end of the world, although it can be kind of nerve racking depending on how close they choose to live and how often you encounter them.
Skunks Can Be A Nuisance
They can also be a nuisance when they start digging and burrowing in your lawn, or spraying your dog. They are not necessarily a nice thing to encounter when you crawl underneath your cottage to hook up the water pump.
That’s one of the reasons why I have never skirted our cottage, allowing the underneath to be fairly open and light, discouraging animals like skunks from choosing it as a good place to live.
The only good news is, they rarely make a smell in their own home, but they do carry a very distinctive musky smell, that lingers around where they live….uh-huh…and it isn’t a nice musky smell like the musk perfume that sexy women wear either….
As I mentioned, skunks like insects, and we often have evidence of that in our front yard and cottage garden. They make little scooped out holes in the lawn or garden as they search for insect grubs or larvae.
I don’t have much issue with that myself, as they are probably ridding my yard of bugs I don’t want anyway. However, if I had a golf course…..well….that’s another story….
Much like keeping bears away, the best thing to deal with skunks is to take preventative measures before they are needed. Here are some tips:
How To Get Rid of Skunks and Skunk Odor
Use Caution Around Skunks
Skunks are like most wild animals of this nature, dangerous when cornered, and often carriers of disease like distemper, rabies and the like. Don’t handle them, even dead ones, and don’t allow children or pets near them.
Diseased skunks often exhibit unusual behavior like no fear of humans, strange walking, or showing up in unusual places, like your front porch in the daytime. If you see, trap or shoot a skunk exhibiting any strange or sickly actions, I suggest you report it to your local game warden.
Get Rid of Skunk Odor
Finally….How do you get rid of the smell? Time heals all wounds, so they say, so hanging the clothes outdoors for a long period will eventually remove the odor, but it may take a long time. The same with the family dog, eventually the smell will dissipate, but it depends on the weather, the fur of the dog, etc…etc.
Most people cannot wait for the smell to just go away, they want to clean it up as fast as possible, it can be quite awful, and the dog, or kid, will need to stay outside for days and nights, which isn’t usually possible.
The old standby of a mixture of vinegar and tomato juice is often considered the best way to remove skunk odor, but that is not necessarily true. In an emergency perhaps, if nothing else is available, it’s worth a try.
What happens is you end up with a dog that smells like tomatoes instead of skunk, which is probably a good thing, but it is only masking the skunk odor.
Washing in a household clorine bleach may work OK for clothes as well as hanging them on the clothesline or treating them with commerical deoderizers.
It’s difficult to wash the dog in the washer machine, so you can try the following:
Mix the following ingredients in an open container. Do not seal the container because it could explode. It will also discolor clothing, and perhaps the dog, so use caution.
There ya go! A little something about cottage skunks, what to do about them and how to get rid of skunk smell….what more could you ask for?
Here are a couple of things that you might find useful for dealing with skunks.
1)Contech Electronics Scarecrow Motion-Activated Sprinkler #CRO101 This is a good rig for discouraging skunks and other nuisance animals out of your garden or off your lawn.
2) 16 ounce OdorXit Concentrate odor remover for pet and other tough odors Might be useful for getting the skunk smell out.
3) Havahart Live Animal Single Door Cage Trap for Skunks and Rabbits #1078 One of these is kind of handy to have around the cottage.
For further information I suggest: University of Nebraska
Striped Skunk Photo: Wilkipedia / Tom Friedel ( BirdPhotos. comThis file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.