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These Little Stinkers Give Plenty Of Warnings

The striped skunk is one of the most recognizable mammals in our area. They are known for their signature black and white stripes and their smelly defense technique. Their family name, Mephitidae, literally means stink.

A baby skunk. (Photo via Shutterstock)

However, spraying is not the first choice for skunks. They do not have an unlimited supply of spray, and it takes a lot of energy to produce. It can take up to 10 days to load back up! Therefore, skunks deploy a lot of warnings before locking in a target and spraying.

Warning 1: Coloration

The distinctive black-and-white patterning on the striped skunk is no accident. It is meant to be intimidating, advertising “Leave me alone!” The white stripes also point right to their spray gland. When you see those stripes, step back.

Warning 2: Tail Wag

The next warning a skunk gives is to raise its tail. It will also give it a little shake. The skunk knows you are there and wants you to leave. It may even growl or hiss to help make this point clear.

Warning 3: Stomp and Stand

Skunks usually give several warnings before they spray. (Photo via Shutterstock)

After the tail has made its move, the skunk does a little dance. It starts by stomping its front feet on the ground. Then the skunk will lift its back legs up in the air while stomping. It starts to look like it’s doing a handstand, stepping from side to side.

Check out these baby skunks stomping away.

Warning 4: Taking Aim

The last warning sign a skunk gives is when it makes a “U” shape with its body. This allows the skunk to see its target, aim and fire! A skunk can spray its stinky spray as far as 10 feet.

It is important to note that skunks are usually docile creatures! They are nocturnal. While we are sleeping, they are looking for food, including insects, worms, fruit, eggs, reptiles, fish and small mammals.

They have poor eyesight and a poor sense of smell. Plus, they spend most of their time alone. The spray is just to protect them from potential predators and threats.

You may not be able to teach your dog these warning signs, but now at least you know when to back away from our smelly but friendly skunks.


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