club info   


    what's new

    club information




Skunk Timeline:

   Late Feb. through
   early March

Young are born:
   Late April through
   early May

   6-7 weeks
   Mid May-Late Jul.

Young skunks may remain in the den through early August (mine are still here as of August 10).
Creature Feature - Angie Brown

August: Skunks

Just when I thought I'd photographed about everything I can in the back yard (except for the camera-shy raccoons), I have new tenants under the back deck. For now I've named them Pepe and Peter. They're just babies right now, and we've been seeing them during the day as early as 9 a.m. and as late as 7 p.m. Needless to say, we keep our eyes wide open when we're outside now.

Although Doug (my husband) and I were somewhat upset when we first noticed the skunks (he walked between them on the sidewalk to the front door, and I just about ran into one on the doorstep after getting the mail), we've done some homework and have learned a lot:

   bulletSkunks can carry rabies, but so can raccoons, oppossums, bats, dogs, cats, etc. No, they're not born with it. Skunks get rabies by contact with a rabid animal, just like everyone else. As with any wild animal, enjoy them from a distance!
   bulletIf you have a skunk in your yard and call City of Arlington (for those of you who aren't local it's in Texas), the recourse is to set a live trap for it. When it is caught, they will kill it on the spot. It might, however, sit there in the trap all day while you wait for someone to come - this happened in my co-worker's yard last summer, during the 100+ degree heat.
   bulletSkunks are born with the ability to spray. However, until they are several months old they can neither aim very well nor spray very far. When a skunk is about to spray, you will have some warning. First, she will turn around and face her back end at the threat (hey, I'm outta there by that point!), and stomp her feet. If you haven't got the message by then, then heaven help you!
   bulletSkunks can only see a few feet in front of their faces - probably the reason we see so many as roadkill. Try not to be too sneaky if you suspect they're around but you can see that they're not near. They're probably more afraid of you than you are of them! If you should suddenly find yourself up close to one, though, then it's time to be very quiet and move slowly. You don't want to appear threatening.
   bulletAdult skunks are wanderers and normally don't stay in one place for more than a few days.
  bullet In addition to eating seeds, berries, etc. skunks eat mice, rats, moles, snails, snakes, grubs, cockroaches and a host of other insects. Seems to me that they earn their keep!
   bulletFor over 70 years, people have actually bred and raised skunks (de-scented, of course) to keep as pets. They come in many different colors, not just the black and white of the wild ones. In captivity, skunks can live to be more than 20 years old. In the wild, however, two to three years is about it.

Sources for this article include the following sites, which are also recommended for further reading:

S.K.U.N.K.S. Scentral
(Society of Kind Understanding for Not Killing Skunks)
A very informative site! Includes myths about skunks, how to discourage them from being near your home, what to do if you or your pet gets sprayed, and much more.

Skunk & Oppossum Website
The title about sums it up. Another good reference!

Skunk Spray Movie
This is located on the above website. Don't watch if you're easily grossed out! It's a .mov file: you must have Windows Media Player or Quicktime to view it.

Skunks as Pets
Includes a FAQ on skunks as pets.

If you find that you have a skunk living in a place he shouldn't be, check with the S.K.U.N.K.S. site listed above for help on making the skunk's hiding place less desireable: trap and kill is NOT your only option, nor is it recommended at all unless it has bitten someone! My favorite tip (and one that can be used with any unwanted critter) is to sprinkle flour near the opening -- they'll leave footprints so you can tell if they're in or out before blocking up the hole.

For the last five years, my husband and I have maintained our yard naturally. We've provided plants with edible fruits and seeds, water, and a brush pile for shelter. Those of us who have created backyard wildlife habitats really have no right to expect that we'll get to pick and choose the creatures that enjoy it.

So what am I going to do about my skunks? Watch, learn, take pictures, try not to startle one, appreciate that they eat mice and rats, and wait for these beautiful creatures to move on.