Skunks: frequent questions
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1. Getting rid of skunk odor
2. Skunks and rabies
3. How to help an orphaned skunk
4. Feeding skunks
5. Do skunks always spray?
Poor 'Bacon' the Basset Hound
got skunked. His family bathed
him with Nature's Miracle.
(Ron Begbie / Flickr)
How to remove skunk odor
Oh, the awful stench! It's unforgettable, isn't it? It's a mixture of noxious sulphur-containing chemicals (methyl and butyl thiols) that come from a skunk's anal glands. Sulfurs not only smell bad, but they linger -- so well, in fact, they're added to natural gas, which is odorless, so we can smell a gas leak in our homes. They're also what we smell on the tip of a burned match or when Old Faithful geyser erupts.
Sulphurs are hard to neutralize. You'll have to bath your dog, maybe more than once. Plain old soap and water won't work. Dog shampoo won't work. Scented shampoos won't work. It's an unpleasant, unsuccessful task if you don't know what to do.
You've probably heard of tomato juice recipes for dealing with skunk musk, but they don't work, so don't waste time and energy trying them out. Other recipes, however, do work. One is the product Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover, which was used by the owners of "Bacon," the dog you see in the photo. But we believe the home recipe below works even better:
Mix the following together in a wide-mouth container or bucket (the mixture will create pressure in a closed container, causing it to burst). Stir well and expect it to fizz like crazy.
• 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (found in any
• 1/4 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, found in any
• 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap (Dawn or Palmolive work well,
but any similar soap will do)
Use the mixture immediately. Wet your pet’s coat and wash it thoroughly with the solution.
The solution will neutralize the chemicals in every hair it touches, so eliminating the odor is directly related to how well you wash your pet. Don’t get the mixture in your pet’s eyes or mouth. If you must clean his face, put the solution on a cloth and carefully wipe around his eyes and mouth.
Skunk musk causes intense eye pain and is capable of causing blindness. If your pet’s eyes are tearing and red, or he is having trouble opening them, gently flush them for several minutes with copious amounts of eyewash. His eyes may be sensitive and swollen for a day or two.
Leave the solution on your pet’s body for five minutes before rinsing it away. Repeat, if you think it’s necessary. Don’t store leftover solution. Not only does it begin to lose its effectiveness right away, but it may build up pressure and explode your container. Never use bleach on your pet or mix any other products into this formula.
This formula works for people and clothing, too - which you may need after attending to your pet!
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Can skunks get rabies?
Skunks can catch rabies from the saliva of a rabid animal. It's often assumed a skunk seen out in daytime is rabid, but this is seldom the case. Skunks are crepuscular, meaning they're most active at dawn and dusk. But they also go out in daytime to forage and skunk babies will play outside their den during the day. So, unless a skunk is behaving oddly he isn't rabid.
A skunk with rabies displays bizarre behavior: too tame or too aggressive, unsteady on his feet, confused, drooling, circling, mutilating himself, screeching, paralyzed or acting tame. If you think a skunk is rabid, stay clear of him and call Animal Control. If you're bitten or scratched, even by a skunk who seems healthy, see your medical provider immediately for treatment.
A baby skunk doesn’t need to be rescued if it would take two hands to pick him up; he's old enough to be on his own. As with other animals, watch the baby for a while to make sure he truly is an orphan; he might just be playing outside his den. Contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for help.
If you must do the rescue yourself in order to save a baby from imminent danger, here’s what to do: Wear gloves, a frightened skunk may bite. Approach him very slowly, making all your movements deliberate, with no sudden, jerky motions. Speak to him in a soft voice as you approach. Skunks have poor vision; your voice will help keep him calm. To startle him is to invite, shall we say, an odor management problem. Even very young skunks can spray (from glands under their tail), so be sure to remain facing him as you very slowly and gently place a towel or blanket over him, then pick him up. Put him inside a secure box with air holes. Line the bottom with paper towels or a soft cloth to snuggle in. Keep the baby warm with a heating pad set on low, placed under half of the box (if he gets too warm, he can escape to the other half), and keep him in a dark place until you can get him to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Out at Bob's / Flickr
Skunks visit my yard. Is it OK to put food out for them?
Skunks are cute to watch from afar, but a regular source of food might just convince them to nest nearby. They carry a discernible odor even when they haven’t sprayed. Imagine the odor of a mother and several babies living under your porch! (Actually, no wildlife should be fed, with the exception of squirrels and birds.)
Even skunk babies (kits)
photo: Bobbotron1 / Flickr
Do skunks always spray?
Not if given a choice. Their musk is precious to them. It's their only defense and it takes a day or more for their body to produce a new supply if they use it up. They'll spray when taken by surprise and otherwise spray only if they believe they're under attack. Only then after giving you a warning, if possible. They'll hiss, stamp their feet, pretend-lunge toward you. They really just want you to back off. If one turns his backside to you, it's time to run!
Avoid confrontations by carrying a flashlight when stepping into unlighted areas of your yard at night. When they can see and hear you coming, they’ll hopefully move away. Or, you can see them and take a detour.
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