Even just five or so years ago, it seemed rare to see a skunk wandering around my residential neighborhood—almost unheard of ten years ago. Usually I’d see them at dusk while camping or walking around the state park, but not in my neighbor’s yard. What happened?
- A rabies epidemic in the 1980s and 90’s had killed many skunks in the Chicago area, and now their population is rebounding. Skunks are the main carrier of rabies in the Midwest.
- Few natural predators prey on skunks. Only the grey-horned owl and red-tailed hawks actively prey on them, while coyotes and foxes eat them. Most of these predators are rare in my area.
- Cars are the chief predator of skunks and their population is measured by road kill counts.
- Used to humans. Skunks know we fear their smell and can come within 20+ feet before feeling threatened. This is why they we see them so often.
- Skunks that are sick from rabies can act bolder or aggressive. Beware of any skunk acting strangely or out during the day—it may be rabid.
- Time of year—late summer and early fall is when I see them the most. This is when young skunks are venturing away from their mothers. Skunks are out during mating season in late winter. They do not hibernate, but slow down and are inactive (torpor) in their dens during the winter. They may emerge on warm winter nights.
- Availability of the following—so clean your yard and secure your property.
- Food—skunks are omnivores and eat a variety of food, including the trash left in your yard or garbage can. They prey on beetles, grasshoppers, grubs and worms, plus bird eggs, small rodents and frogs, but will also dine on fruits, berries and mushrooms. Often they are seen under fruit trees or digging in lawns and gardens. Small holes in your lawn can be from skunks digging for grubs.
- Shelter—skunks like to make dens in tree hollows, brush or wood piles, and underneath porches and sheds.
- Source of water within two miles of their den.
Do skunks always spray?
Skunks spray as a last defense. They may growl, spit, fluff their fur or shake their tail. Usually the tail shake is what catches my attention with the flash of white in the darkness. If the intruder (your dog) doesn’t leave, then it will lift its tail and spray its powerful odor.
Almost all of my dogs have had very close encounters with only one spray occurrence. Most of the time I’ve realized the critter was a skunk and ordered my dog back, and fortunately, they listened and avoided the spray. Buffy was on a 15-foot retractable leash and yanked out of range before it sprayed. The spray range for skunks is about ten feet.
The only occurrence of spray was in my yard when a skunk sprayed the fence and Chipper was close enough to get some spray on his face, which he immediately rubbed on Buffy.
How to bathe your dog
Don’t let him in the house or rub against you or another dog or you will have more cleaning to do!
Forget the tomato juice; instead use the following—it really works!
- Dawn Dish Washing Liquid
2. Hydrogen Peroxide
3. Baking Soda
- Mix 1 – 2 ounces of dawn dish soap with a gallon of water.
- Add 1 ounce of hydrogen peroxide (per gallon)
- Add 1/4 cup of baking soda.
- Mix these items well in a bucket
- Once you wash the dog with this solution, give him a regular bath.
Check my blog on bath at dogs and skunks–how to prevent the stink.
Most of us dread skunks because of the stink and having to bathe our dogs. But here are more reasons to keep your dog away. They carry many diseases, such as:
- Rabies – beware of skunks out during the day, skunks acting aggressive, having an unsteady gait, drooling or foaming at the mouth.
- Canine distemper
- Canine hepatitis
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Photo by Dreamstime
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