“What is that horrible smell?”
Many a Sunday drive has been ruined by the ungodly odor pouring through your car’s vents. You can’t even let your dog out at night anymore, because every time you do you wind up forced to spend hours scrubbing them down with hydrogen peroxide and Dawn dish soap. A skunk’s overpowering stench can make them seem like some of the worst creatures on the planet. But, surprisingly, having skunks around might not actually be as bad as you think.
Skunks’ signature smell is a defense mechanism against predators, and it’s a ridiculously effective one. Only 5% of skunks are killed by predators each year. Even bears have been seen cutting skunks a wide berth. The method is so effective that most of the time, skunks don’t even bother to spray their scent glands. Skunks warn potential threats of the consequences of provoking them before spraying them. This can include everything from simply releasing a few drops to deter attackers, to elaborate handstands.
Skunks smell might seem funny, and if you’re only familiar with it from smelling it on the side of the road, you may be surprised to hear how effective it is. But there are some key differences. For one thing, a skunk’s spray is much, much more potent if fully and intentionally sprayed. For another, skunks don’t just randomly spray. They aim directly for the eyes. Their spray causes an intense burning sensation. It is essentially the animal kingdom’s equivalent of pepper, but much more potent and long-lasting.
With all this, it might be hard to see how a skunk is anything but a menace. But the thing is, skunks’ effectiveness has also given them extremely passive attitudes. Skunks really aren’t typically concerned about anything. The trick to avoiding skunks is quite literally to just avoid skunks. If you see one in your yard, give it space. It is likely just passing through. And while it’s there, it might eat other, worse, pests. In particular, skunks love to feed on yellow jacket nests. A skunk in your neighborhood is a great asset to biological pest control. And if a skunk does decide to wander into your garage or shed, simply leaving the door open for them to exit at night and then closing it when they do should be enough to keep them from returning.
Skunks can be a nuisance. But they’ve also been kept as pets. They’re very docile creatures. As long as you keep a respectful distance from skunks in your area, it can be a big benefit to just leave them be.