JoAnne Skelly: Oh, no, skunks!

Skunks are back in our neighborhood. Twenty-five years ago we had skunks here regularly, sometimes living under our shed. Our dogs would run through nearby fields and get sprayed. When the golf course was built across the creek from us and numerous houses went in, skunks disappeared.

A couple of weeks ago, we suddenly got a blast of skunk stench coming in the windows. We raced around the house shutting out the horrible pong. A few days later, we were looking at our wildlife camera and saw that dang skunk’s photo. We found out from the neighbor that her dog had gone on that infamous night and did get sprayed.

Time for research on skunks, their habits and habitat.

These housecat-sized critters can intimidate creatures much larger than themselves, whether they spray them or not. The anal glands are where the oily scent defense is located. Skunks can spray multiple times before recharging and hit a target 10 feet away. Rather than spray their entire arsenal, they sometimes send out a slight whiff to discourage problems developing. But when going full bore, they twist into a U-shape that allows them to get their rump and eyes toward the target at the same time. The foul-smelling liquid can not only make you gag but is also painful in the membranes of the nose and mouth and can cause temporary blindness with a direct hit. Skunks are reluctant sprayers and recharge can take a week.

Skunks can be beneficial. They eat insects such as grubs, beetles, grasshoppers as well as small rodents including mice, rats and moles. Unfortunately, they dig holes when looking for food. They are also opportunistic and will eat pet food, carrion, garbage, small birds and the like.

To keep skunks out from under houses, other buildings, porches or out of garages, screen openings in the foundation or crawl spaces and keep garages and sheds closed at night. Remove all tempting food possibilities to deter skunk interest. To avoid these nocturnal animals spraying pets, keep them indoors between dusk and dawn. Make sure pets’ rabies and other vaccines are current to avoid skunk-transmitted diseases.

If you or your pet are sprayed, use a mixture of four cups hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda and a teaspoon of dish soap to remove skunk stench. Leave the mixture on for about five minutes, then rinse well. Follow with a moisturizing cream because hydrogen peroxide will dry out skin. The tomato juice wash is a myth.

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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