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11/28/2022 5 minute read

Fascinating Facts About Skunks

Skunks are solitary animals of the family Mephitidae. They are known for releasing an extremely foul spray that will linger in the air for days if not weeks. But there’s more to these animals than just that!

Here are some interesting fun facts about skunks:

skunk running around the house

Skunks Are Omnivorous

Though they’re commonly known to feast on small rodents, skunks are actually omnivorous animals. This means that their diet consists of both plants and animals. During the spring and summer, a skunk’s diet will be mostly composed of fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds, grains, and even leaves.  In the fall and winter, their diet will change to consist mostly of small mammals, such as mice, rats, and rabbits. Skunks will also eat insects, such as beetles, grubs, and grasshoppers.

a bee flying around a flower

Skunks eat bees and often attack beehives.

Many animals avoid bees because of the painful sting they can deliver. Skunks, however, have no problem going after bees and their hives. They will even climb trees to get to them! While it’s not clear why skunks like to eat bees, experts believe that it could be because of the high protein content in bees.

a baby snake wandering on the ground

They eat snakes and are immune to their venom

Skunks don’t just eat rodents and insects. They’re known to prey on snakes too! They are one of the few predators that are immune to snake venom. Skunks, like their cousins, the mongooses, have a high tolerance for snake venom.

They have evolved venom-blocking cells that work like a shield against deadly toxins. This remarkable adaptation allows them to not only kill their prey but also eat them without being harmed!

Skunks and other animals like mongooses, hedgehogs, and honey badgers share a fascinating immunity to snakes’ deadly bites.

Skunks dance as a warning.

While most animals show their fangs and growl as a warning, skunks dance! When they feel threatened, they will stomp their feet and wave their tail in the air. If that doesn’t work, they will spray the offender with their foul-smelling scent.

stripe skunks beneath a fallen wood trunk

The stripes serve a purpose.

For most animals, their fur coloration helps them camouflage and blend in with their surroundings. This helps them avoid being seen by predators. Skunks, on the other hand, have stripes and patterns that make them more visible- and it’s a good thing! The stripes may seem like a fashion faux pas, but they serve as a warning to predators.

Although skunks can immediately use their spray in self-defense, their fur serves as a layer of a deterrent. The bright colors let predators know that they’re not to be messed with. Hungry animals wouldn’t want to take the risk of being sprayed, so they will likely leave skunks alone.

Their aim is often the eyes.

When a skunk sprays its foul-smelling liquid, it can shoot as far as 10 feet! And, more often than not, the target is the eyes. Once the spray gets into the eyes, it causes watering, burning, and temporary blindness.

Skunk’s spray can reach up to 1.5 miles.

Skunks are able to spray their foul-smelling liquid with great accuracy. They can shoot it as far as 10 feet! They also have enough liquid to spray five times before needing to refill. They also have enough control to spray in a very specific direction.

a skunk spray

Skunk sprays are highly flammable.

Skunk sprays contain sulfuric thiols, compounds with a pungent smell. These compounds are flammable and can be set on fire with a single match. This can cause temporary blindness, although they are not poisonous to humans and pets.

Their spray can be adjusted.

Skunks can control the direction of their spray. They can aim it up to 10 feet away and accurately hit their target! They can also emit the noxious liquid in a stream or a  mist. This ability to adjust the spray allows skunks to use it as a self-defense mechanism against predators, as well as a way to mark their territory.

Some people can’t smell skunks at all.

While skunks are known for their foul spray, there are people who can’t smell it at all. This is because they lack a gene that allows them to smell thiols, the compounds that give skunks their signature smell.

This may sound like an interesting ability, but it’s actually a disadvantage. These people are more likely to wander in areas where skunks have sprayed, and they won’t be able to tell when they’ve been sprayed by a skunk.

a weasel on a tree branch

Skunks are not the only animal that has anal scent glands.

Anal scent glands are not exclusive to skunks. These glands are also found in other mustelids, such as weasels, otters, and badgers. All these animals use their anal scent glands to mark their territories or as a self-defense mechanism.

The anal scent glands of a skunk are particularly large and well-developed. This is because skunks use their spray as their main form of defense.

They need a “reload.”

Skunks can spray their foul-smelling liquid up to 5 times in a row. But, after that, they need some time to “reload.” It usually takes them ten days to produce another stinking secretion.

It’s also important to know that skunks only do this when left with no choice. They don’t immediately resort to using the spray if they think they can still escape.

multiple holes in the lawn

They are excellent diggers

Skunks are excellent diggers. In fact, they can dig a hole up to 15 inches deep and 18 inches wide in just one night. They use their sharp paws and long nails to dig holes, which serve as dens for them to live in and raise their young.

a mouse wandering in the lawn

Skunks keep mice out of your house

One of the benefits of having skunks around is that they help keep your house free from mice and other small rodents. Skunks are natural predators of these animals so they keep the rodents’ population down.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should let skunks live in your house as one spray from them can stink up the whole place.

Their name is derived from their most recognizable trait.

The name skunk comes from the Algonquin, meaning “one who squirts.” This is because of their most recognizable trait – their ability to spray a foul-smelling liquid from their anal glands.

Tomato juice doesn’t remove the skunk scent.

A common folk treatment for skunk spray is to douse your pets or yourself with tomato juice to eliminate the unpleasant scent. But, what actually happens is that it only masks the scent. Despite being acidic, it doesn’t break down the thiols responsible for the stench. 

Skunks are solitary animals.

Skunks are solitary, meaning they survive on their own. The breeding season serves as an exemption, though. They find their pairs to mate and establish families. Moreover, female skunks gather in communal dens to share their body heat.

A species of skunk, the stink badger, is found only in Asia.

Stink badgers, also known as false badgers, belong to the Mydaus genus of the skunk family. They have short tails that distinguish them from the skunks in North America. They’re only found in the countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Skunks used to be in the weasel family.

Skunks were previously classified in the Mustelidae family, the weasels. This is due to their similarities: the solid claws for digging, squat body, enlarged anal glands, and foul secretions. They were later separated due to genetic differences and distinct characteristics, with the fouling spray they release being a huge factor.

Have a Skunk Problem? Call Us Today!

Skunks are no pleasure to keep around the house. They damage vent screens and release an unbearable smell. They may choose your property as their denning ground too. Don’t let skunks stink up your place, call AAAC Wildlife Removal today. We are experts in wildlife removal and control. Call us today, and we’ll be there to help you in a jiffy! 

Final Word

Skunks are solitary creatures of the class Mephitidae. More than being infamous for their stinky odor, they possess a lot of behaviors that make them distinct. Immunity to snake venom is one of the notable features. But, they also have an adjustable direction for their spray. Although gifted with this defense musk, they can only shoot six times in a row and would need a reload.

Skunks are not the only mammals with anal scent glands, but theirs are more developed and advanced. This helps them survive the cruel life cycle of the wild.