Few animals are as reviled as the unassuming night dweller, the beautifully coiffed, yet largely invisible creature, the skunk. Mostly identified by their noxious musk, the small mammals are hard to spot (alive) because of their nocturnal habits and shadowy excursions.
And yet, there are glimmers of appreciation for this weasel species. One improbable, and likely unwitting, illustration is the bride of the beloved monster in “Frankenstein,” as portrayed by actress Madeline Kahn, her hair a perfect beehive of black and white.
Flower, the bashful skunk in Disney’s “Bambi” declares, “Oh, that’s all right. (Bambi) can call me a flower if he wants to.” He smiles shyly as he hides behind his luxurious tail.
Portrayed as more scoundrel than sweet, Looney Tunes’ Pepe Le Pew is a jilted lover, a fatuous pursuer of his dream skunk who is tragically not a skunk at all but a cat cursed with a white streak along her back. He tries to entice her, “Come back darling, golden violet! I will un-shy you! You are just insecure. All you need is a little occupational therapy, like making love!”
Beautiful coats aside, perhaps skunks deserve respect simply because of their brilliant physiology. The skunk’s musk consists of a chemical group called “thiols” containing sulfur and hydrogen. Three thiol compounds create the musk. Two other chemicals may react with water to become thiols, so washing a stricken dog is not recommended!
Gross Science states, “Some scientists suggest using a mixture of dilute hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and a little liquid soap, which will oxidize the thiol and turn it into a sulfonic acid. But be careful, because it could dye your hair or pet fur.” Tomato juice? Just a myth.
Skunks use super-powered protrusions that come out of the anus and can squirt musk 10 feet. Skunks are reluctant to employ their anal gland weapons and may issue a warning before firing. Hissing, stomping, and doing handstands are clear warnings to keep your distance. Probably witnessing any animal performing a handstand would stop most of us in our tracks!
Nevertheless, disdain for skunks abounds, as suggested by their collective name, “surfeit,” defined as “an overabundant supply or a disgust caused by excess.” This cannot bode well for the skunk.
Nonlethal control of skunks is possible. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) recommends employing deterrents to avoid the establishment of skunks(or other wildlife) near homes, such as placing a nylon stocking stuffed with ammonia-soaked towels under the house. After any animals are completely expelled, permanently seal any openings or holes.
Humane wildlife products from companies like Havahart may be helpful in warding off small animals from moving onto the property. Before you ban skunks, consider that they prey on the much unappreciated mouse!
Jefferson County Animal Control warns residents to keep away from skunks or any wildlife that are acting odd or sick. Never handle them, as even rabies-infected saliva can be fatal by entering the body through cuts or abrasions.
Skunks are like all wild animals, reproducing, foraging and protecting themselves and their offspring from harm. Nature has given them an unpleasant but benign method of self-preservation. Instead of big teeth or speed, the skunk stands apart in a cloud of stink of his own making. And yet, the skunk has his fans, such as actor Johnny Depp, who modeled his famous “Pirates of the Caribbean” character, Jack Sparrow, partly on a particular skunk. Depp states,“Pepe Le Pew was the kind of character who always was able to run between the rain drops. He’d always make it through.”