By Cheryl Conley, TWRC Wildlife Center
Actually, yes, they are. For most people, the only thing they know about skunks is that they stink but they are very beneficial to farmers and homeowners. They eat garden and agricultural pests in large numbers. They feed on larvae, worms, fruit, eggs, reptiles, small mammals, bees, wasps, and fish. So are Skunks good for anything? YES!
Texas is home to five species of skunks—the eastern spotted, striped, two types of hog-nosed and the hooded skunk. The hooded skunk is considered a Mexican species and can only be found in a few Texas counties near Mexico. The striped skunk is the most common skunk in North America. It has a white stripe on either side of its back that extends over the head and down the sides of the tail. The spotted skunk can only be found in eastern Texas, the Panhandle and the eastern United States. It gets its name from having a small white spot on its forehead and a spot in front of each ear. The American hog-nosed skunk is the largest skunk in the world. They have one broad white stripe from the top of the head to the base of the tail and a long, bushy white tail. They can be found in southern and central Texas.
The eastern spotted skunk is small and unlike the other species of skunks, its movements are similar to that of the squirrel. They are very active and can even climb trees. Due to threats such as habitat loss, pesticide use and vehicle strikes across the spotted skunk’s entire range, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is evaluating the species’ status and will determine if it should be listed as threatened or endangered. It plans to make a listing recommendation in 2023.
Skunks are very docile animals and they will warn predators before releasing the oily substance from their anal glands that contains the active ingredient, n-butyl mercaptan. They’ll do a little dance, stomp the ground, slap their tail on the ground and may even stand on their back legs. They’re giving you fair warning. Once they spray, they are unable to do it again for ten days. If you encounter a skunk, stop immediately and slowly back away.
If your pet gets sprayed, here’s what the American Kennel Club recommends. It may not completely remove the smell but it’ll get rid of most of it.
- Check the eyes. If affected, flush with cool water or purchase an eye wash from your vet and keep on hand if you live in an area with a high population of skunks.
- Mix 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (found at any pharmacy or supermarket), 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap.
- Wear rubber gloves and thoroughly wash your pet. Don’t leave the solution on too long. You may have to repeat the process.
- Use a regular pet shampoo, and wash your pet again to remove any residual solution.
- Towel dry your pet.
- If you need to wash your clothes, use ½ cup of baking soda with your regular detergent.
DO NOT STORE solution for later use. If kept in a covered container, it can explode. Do not get the solution in your pet’s eyes. Don’t use a peroxide solution stronger than 3%.