For Release October 12, 1999

Skunked!

AGRI-VIEWS
by Chuck Otte, County Extension Agent

There are few things in life less pleasant than the direct effect of a skunk encounter. Itís rank, itís overpowering, itís rude and it hangs around for what seems like forever. While many wildlife species diminish in numbers as people increase in an area, skunks seem very well adapted to humans and their environs. Subsequently, unfortunate interactions between skunks, humans and their pets are inevitable. Equally unfortunate is the fact that a skunk discharge can impact an amazingly large area.

We have two species of skunks in Kansas. The Eastern Spotted Skunk is rarely encountered anymore and is fully protected in Kansas as a threatened species. The Striped Skunk is far more common and, judging by the number of road kills Iíve seen this fall, down right abundant in some areas!

Skunks and snakes have a lot in common. While being severely disliked by the vast majority of the human population, they are extremely beneficial in the natural world. Nearly half of their diet is insects, and about 20 percent each is fruits and mice. The remainder is made up of anything that they can scrounge, including eggs of ground nesting birds, honey, pet food, table scraps, etc.

On the downside there is that odor problem. In their defense however, they only spray when really disturbed or threatened. They are well known as carriers of rabies. This is just the tip of the iceberg however, as they can also carry numerous other diseases as well as a whoís who of parasites. They are probably second only to the opossum in the amount of living things they carry with them!

Skunks do not hesitate to place themselves in close proximity with humans. I suppose when you come as well armed as they do, thereís not much that you are scared of. Skunks will wander around your yard digging up grubs and other insects. They are curious and will dig around under outbuildings, decks, patio slabs, even outdoor steps, crawl spaces, basements and under mobile homes. The longer they stay in these areas the more at home they will become and moving them out becomes even tougher.

In the fall of the year the young skunks, who have been with their mother since they were born in April, head out on their own. This is the main reason that so many dead ones are seen on the roads right now. They are going off in search of their own territory and many of them have not learned a lot of road smarts yet. It is also during this period that many of the skunk/pet encounters occur.

Many deodorizing techniques have been tried over the years with limited success. A fairly recent entry in this category is a mixture made of one quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, ľ cup baking soda and one teaspoon liquid soap. Bathe the pet in this followed with a tap water rinse. A large pet may require a double or triple recipe.

There are no repellents registered to keep skunks out of an area. If the skunks are getting into an enclosed area (under a building) then moth balls may work, but I feel you will have better luck using household ammonia. Use this full strength sprayed around under the building or soaking rags with it and leaving them under the building. The bad news is that we are probably at the height of the skunk season. The good news is that, as colder weather arrives, skunks will become much less active!

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