Help! There’s a Skunk in My Path!
by Cate Burnette, RVT
Skunks reside in all 50 of the United States, both in rural and suburban areas. If you spend any time at all out with your dogs walking on wooded trails, in open pasture land, or along rock outcroppings or brushy fencerows, you’re liable to run into one of these mild-tempered little creatures.
To avoid getting sprayed, we’ve given you some tips on how to stay away from skunks and what to do if you encounter one on your outings:
Don’t walk your dog after dark. Skunks are nocturnal. They typically begin foraging for food after dark and are back in their dens by daylight.
Stay off country roads, if at all possible, and walk your dogs in well-lighted areas. Skunks commonly patrol these streets looking for roadkill, particularly after dark, so keep to well-trafficked stretches of road.
Look for den entrances and stay away from them. Skunk dens are typically located under wood and rock piles, buildings, porches, concrete slabs, also in culverts, rock crevices, and in standing and fallen hollow trees. Look for a grass-free, smooth 3- by 4-inch depression with only one entrance and a musky odor. You can also spot a den by the evidence of skunk droppings, which look like cat spoor yet contain all kinds of food, from insects to seeds or hair, and by skunk tracks. Skunk tracks resemble those of the domestic cat, except that skunks have 5 toes instead of 4 and they show claw marks. The tracks are also usually staggered, instead of one top of each other, like cat tracks.
Don’t allow your dog or yourself to corner or agitate a skunk. These little animals won’t spray unless they feel threatened, so maintaining your distance is imperative to keep from getting attacked.
Watch for spraying signals. A startled skunk shows she is ready to spray by raising her tail, standing on her hind legs, and pounding her front legs on the ground. Should you see any of these behaviors, back slowly and quietly away.
Avoid making loud noises, moving quickly, or taking other steps that could be interpreted by the skunk as a threat.
Slowly move away from an approaching skunk if you’re standing still. Because they have such poor eyesight, skunks will approach people and other animals that are standing quietly. If you see one approaching, calmly turn around and walk in the other direction.
What should you do if your dog is skunk sprayed?
If your dog gets skunk sprayed, immediately change into old clothes and rubber gloves to avoid getting any of it on yourself. Blot the spray with paper towels to get as much off your dog’s coat as possible, then bathe and rinse the affected areas several times with a good anti-odor canine shampoo, before you bathe the whole dog to avoid spreading the smell around. There are new anti-skunk sprays and shampoos available that work organically to break apart the odor-causing compounds in the skunk spray and wash the smell down your drain.
Unfortunately, your best bet is still to avoid the situation altogether by avoiding the little culprit causing the problem.