Skunk Biology and Myths

We at Wildlife Damage Control are amazed at the myths and misinformation surrounding skunks. We hope this page will help eliminate this misinformation. 

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Skunks Mephitis mephitis nigra How to Control Skunk Damage

Deodorizing Skunk Essence Strategies

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Deodorizing Skunk Smell 

Learn how to Trap Skunks


Skunk family.jpg (31355 bytes)BIOLOGY

The common striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis nigra, has been recently reclassified by biologists as a member of the Mephitdae family (it used to belong to the weasel family called Mustelids, many thanks to Jim Burns for making this change known to us). Skunks consist of carnivores (meat eating animals) that possess well developed anal musk glands. Despite the fact that skunks are almost universally feared for their ability to make things smell, there is a great deal of popular myths concerning skunk spray.

Skunks mate during February and March. Like most animals the male does not stay and help with rearing the pups. Females will spray courting males that they do not want to mate with. Females will produce 3-5 young in May and June. After 3-4 weeks the young can spray. In urban areas, skunks prefer to live under sheds, porches and enclosed decks. They also like to reuse an old woodchuck den because it saves them a lot of digging. Most people only become aware of their presence when the young begin experimenting with their newly found spraying ability.

Skunks used to be highly valued for their luxuriant fur. Americans were quite enamored with the warmth and fashion of the skunk’s silky black fur. The problem was that people didn’t know they were buying skunk fur because it was called by other more sexy names. The courts finally ruled that the customer had to know what he or she was buying. Once furriers had to tell the customers that this fine black coat was made of skunk fur, the market for skunks collapsed.

One of the most common myths is perpetuated by the cartoon character Peppy La Pew. Viewers of this humorous cartoon will note that everyone smells the skunk as he walks by. This point is further driven home by the streak of smell that emanates from his tail. Unfortunately, this cartoon is just plain wrong. Skunks don’t like their noxious smell anymore than you do. Skunks only smell like skunks when they have sprayed. Even then they can walk away without smelling like their musk because they lift their tail out of harms way.

Skunk Etiquette

How to meet Mr. Skunk and Still Smell Good

  1. Don't surprise them! If you don't like to be startled then imagine how skunks feel when they get surprised by some 150 pound two legged creature. If you know skunks are around your area be cautious. Turn on outside lights. Make noise while walking to your car so that they know you are coming.
  2. If skunks hang around your door preventing you from entering, believe it or not I have received at least one phone call regarding this, then try to use the back door. If that is impossible get a garden hose and send some artificial rain on them. This should allow you to spray them at a safe distance as well as encourage the skunks to move on.
  3. If you are box trapping for another animal like a woodchuck or squirrel (or an animal that only walks around in the daylight), make sure you close your trap before nightfall so that you won't catch Mr. skunk that night.

Skunk Deodorizing





Disclaimer: WDC seeks to provide accurate, effective and responsible information on resolving human/wildlife conflicts. We welcome suggestions, criticisms to help us achieve this goal. The information provided is for informational purposes only and users of the information use it at their own risk. The reader must consult state/federal officials to determine the legality of any technique in the reader's locale. Some techniques are dangerous to the user and to others. WDC encourages readers to obtain appropriate training (see our informational literature at our Store ), and understand that proper animal damage control involves patience, understanding that not every technique/method works for every situation or even 100% of the time. Your use of this information is governed by this understanding. We welcome potential users of the information and photos to simply ask for permission via e-mail. Finally, WDC welcomes e-mail but understand that all e-mails become property of Wildlife Damage Control.

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