Skunks Everywhere

Numerous neighborhood sightings and some consequences

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By Gabo C.-R.

skunkRecently many skunk sightings and sprayings have been reported in Worthington. Striped skunks, the only skunks native to Ohio, have a mating season from February until the end of March. In Worthington, on the Colonial Hill’s Facebook page, people have reported smelling skunk spray or having their dog sprayed by a skunk. At least 8 cases of skunk activity were reported on that Facebook page since February first. These sightings often happened at night since skunks are nocturnal.

The striped skunk is easily identified because it usually has two white stripes going from its head down its back to its fluffy tail. All skunks release musk, a foul smelling and eye stinging liquid they spray from their anal glands with remarkable accuracy- with a spray range of 15 feet!  In addition to being a defense mechanism, skunks spray each other during mating season when competing for a mate. Striped skunks are gentle creatures and they usually stomp their front paws, hiss, and/or raise their tails to scare off predators before spraying- all of which are good warning signs. Unfortunately,  dogs tend to ignore those signs.

Another fairly common occurrence is skunks falling into window wells and getting trapped. This occurs because skunks have terrible eyesight and are awful climbers. The Connors family of Columbus, Ohio, had a baby skunk fall in their window well in the summer of 2016. They put a wooden plank down into the well so the baby skunk could climb out but the angle was too steep. Next, they put a towel down but that agitated the baby skunk and it started hissing. They tried building a less steep ramp using two planks and a box but the baby skunk still wouldn’t come out. They heard that skunks like Cheetos so they put some in the window well and at the top of the plank. That night, the skunk’s family came over and started eating the Cheetos at the top of the ramp. The baby skunk got jealous and, with new found determination, climbed out and was finally reunited with its family.

Many dog owners have experienced their dogs harassing skunks and getting sprayed with musk. It is almost impossible to get the smell of skunk musk out of a dog’s fur as my family experienced when our dog Daisy was sprayed one evening last year.  After four consecutive baths and a trip to the grocery for more bathing supplies, she still smelled bad, but at least we could tolerate her presence again. A common misconception is that tomato juice makes the skunk smell go away when in reality all it does is cover up the smell. The Humane Society of the United States recommends a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap to help get the smell out. We used this with Daisy and it made a big difference, but you have to make sure to keep it out of the dog’s eyes when you use it.  

Despite what these unfortunate encounters might imply, the Ohio’s Division of  Wildlife reported in the Spring 2016 Furbearer Roadkill Survey that the skunk population is actually declining. The skunk decline is primarily due to loss of habitat from human urbanization. They also stated that the skunk population is prone to fluctuations in population size. The report indicates that winter harshness and diseases are the likely cause of the population fluctuation. Central Ohio has had a very mild winter which might play a small role for the multiple skunk sightings this February.

Skunk Smell Remover For Dogs

Make sure not to get remover in your dog’s eyes

  • One quart hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • One tea spoon of liquid dish washer soap

Recipe summarized from the humane society website.