Humans aren't the only ones with romance on their minds on Feb. 14. Amorous male skunks are busy playing the dating game as well. February through March is mating season for skunks and people shouldn't be surprised to suddenly smell that distinctly unpleasant foul odor. According to The Humane Society of the United States, this is a female skunk's way of warding off unwanted suitors. Fortunately, skunk romance only lasts a short time.
"Skunks are helpful creatures who have earned a bad reputation solely because of that pungent odor," said Laura Simon, field director of urban wildlife programs for The HSUS. "They provide many benefits such as eating garden pests. It is difficult to get sprayed by a skunk if you heed their early warnings and slowly back away."
Early warning signals from a skunk include stamping their front feet, raising their tail very erect, and perhaps "charging" the offender. Dogs frequently ignore these warnings and that's why they get sprayed, but people rarely if ever do. The HSUS recommends a recipe that works to deodorize skunked dogs: Mix a quart of hydrogen peroxide with a fourth of a cup baking soda and teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Wipe down the dog with this recipe then rinse and shampoo him.
-Skunks are cat-sized or smaller; all of the five species found throughout North America can be identified by their distinctive black and white coloration of either stripes or spots.
-Skunks are extremely nearsighted yet have a very fine-tuned sense of smell.
-Skunks are solitary animals, except when raising young or sharing a den during cold periods.
-Striped skunks, hog-nosed and hooded skunks breed in February and March and the babies are born in May and June. Spotted skunks breed either later in the spring, early summer, or in the fall as is the case with western spotted skunks.
-Skunks den in natural cavities like woodchuck burrows, hollow logs, and brush piles, as well as crevices in stone walls and under buildings.
-A den is used only for brief periods because skunks are nomadic by nature.
-Skunks can be active all year but will remain in dens during cold spells.
-Skunks often tumble into window wells and are not able to climb out due to their nearsightedness and poor climbing ability. If a skunk is stuck in a window well, it is very easy to help him out. (Visit humanesociety.org for easy how-to advice.)
-Prevent a skunk in your window well by purchasing a window well cover which is inexpensive and readily available at hardware stores.
-Skunks follow their noses, so if a garage door is open, a skunk will likely amble in. If the skunk enters the garage, The HSUS recommends leaving a garage door open just after dusk and sprinkling flour along the bottom of it so you can see the exiting tracks.
The HSUS Wild Neighbors Program promotes non-lethal means for resolving conflicts between people and wildlife and cultivates understanding and appreciation for wild animals commonly found in cities and towns. On the web at humanesociety.org/wildneighbors.