The skunk mating season is underway (mid-February – April), and homeowners may see an increase of skunks this time of year, or rather smell an increase in skunks! Male skunks are polygamous and right now are traveling far and wide in search of females, which accounts for the increase in sightings and smellings this time of year. During these travels and times of increased activity, skunks are more likely to encounter threats, and therefore spray. Skunks spray for the primary reason of defense from a perceived threat. That threat could be a human, pet, or another wild animal. Skunks are particularly defensive during the breeding season, when males are competing for females, or defending a harem of females from another male. Females are also very defensive during this time, especially if she has already mated and another male wants to mate with her, and she may spray a male in this case.
Most skunks will spray as a last resort (though there are some that are ‘trigger happy’). Before a skunk sprays, it will often make various noises (grunts, snarls, growls, or hisses), then assume a defensive position (arched back and stamping front feet while shuffling backwards) before spraying. The spray is dispelled from two scent glands located on either side of the anal area. Skunks are very accurate in their aim, so beware!
The best way to discourage skunks form coming into your yard is to removing any attractants. This general rule applied to all wildlife coming into back yards. They are there for a reason and that reason is usually food or shelter. Some examples of food and shelter attractants for skunks:
- FOOD: Pet food, bird feeders, bee hives, garbage, places that have rodents (in which case you’d trap to remove the rodents)
- SHELTER: Rock or log piles, brush piles, openings under buildings, porches, and decks
During this time of year, males are searching out females, often in dens, so removing places for females to den will help.