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Creature Feature: All About Skunks

In our last post, we talked about bats, creatures quick to send people shrieking and running for cover.

If there's any critter that inspires more terror and dread, it's got to be skunks.

They're easy to recognize: black fur, white stripe, glassy eyes reflecting your petrified face in the early-morning porch light. We all know what “stinks” about skunks is the putrid, wretch-inducing odor they can blast out their backsides. Probably, you've had experiences giving the family labrador a bath in tomato juice trying to get that odor gone.

A skunk infestation can be stinky and annoying at least, costly and dangerous at most. Here are some things you should know about skunks, especially if you're dealing with a black-and-white invasion.

Skunk Behavior, Habits, And Diet

Skunks take special pleasure in burrowing under home foundations, and they're known to dig under low decks and set up camp. Because they're nocturnal, you may not know you've got one of these stinkers sharing your roof until you're staring it in the eye by moonlight.

For the most part, skunks are carnivorous, feasting their favorite insects: crickets, beetles, grasshoppers, and various types of larvae. That doesn't mean they won't make a salad of your garden vegetables and fruit, because they will, tearing up your soil to get at insects while they're at it.

If you keep chickens, watch out for skunks. The eggs that should be sunny-side-up on your plate will go down their throats instead.

And, finally, the famous odor: Skunks discharge a thick, oily liquid full from two glands at the base of their tails. This is a defensive mechanism, not aggressive; they get stinky only when they're feeling threatened. They do a kind of war dance right before they let it rip, so if your skunk seems be rocking out to an imaginary beat, RUN! Skunks can accurately hit whatever they were aiming at for up to ten feet!

Signs of a Skunk Infestation

One sign you're sure not to miss is the smell! If your nostrils are suffering on a regular basis, that could be a sign something furry has burrowed into your home's nether regions.

Another sign is damage in the form of furrows in the ground or architecture. Skunks also like to tear open trash bags, so regularly scattered garbage forecasts an impending run-in with your home's new skunk.

The Dangers of A Skunk Infestation

The striped skunk is second only to the raccoon in recorded rabies cases in the United States, making an infestation potentially dangerous. While getting sprayed by a skunk won't infect you with the disease, getting bitten could expose you, your family, or your pets.

Also, if it gets you in the eyes, the skunk's spray is very painful and can cause temporary blindness.

And lastly, the skunk's burrowing activities can lead to structural damage and open up your home to weather damage and other infestations.

What To Do About a Skunk Infestation

The best thing to do in the case of a skunk infestation is to have the creature removed by an expert, then have the professional perform “exclusion,” or measures that ensure there aren't any more entryways to your home. (By the way, at AAA, we're experts in exclusion services.) Not performing exclusion is sort of like dealing with a water leak by bailing out the water with buckets. You're not getting to the core of the issue – the leak – and you can expect the problem to continue.

Before we go, here are some quick little-known skunk facts:

  • Skunks live three years on average. Half of all skunk deaths are caused by road accidents.
  • At one time, skunks were hunted and killed for their coats, which were sold in stores as “Alaskan sable.” Once new laws forced advertisers to be honest about what was in their products, skunk fur pretty much stopped selling.
  • French Canadians call the striped skunk “enfant du diable,” or “child of the devil.”

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