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skunk{Mephitis mephitis, Spilogale gracilis}

Skunks are shy animals that try to stay out of the way. They emit a powerful odor that is very effective against other animals, but is ineffective against many other modern threats such as mechanized vehicles. As a result skunks are rarely found in high traffic areas.

About the size of a domestic cat, the most common skunk in our area is the striped skunk, named for two white stripes down its back. It is known for its distinctive black and white fur and odiferous spray. Spotted skunks may be seen on rare occasions.

Widespread throughout the United States, skunks live in ground burrows, under trees and are at home in woodpiles and under buildings or decks. Their diet consists of insects, berries, nuts, fallen fruits and small mammals. Skunks spray when startled. Before spraying, they turn their rear towards the intruder, raise their tail and stamp their front paws. A skunk can repeatedly spray up to 12 feet.

- Do not leave pet food outdoors at night.

- Secure garbage can lids tightly using bungee cords. Keep garbage cans in the garage until trash day or sprinkle ammonia or pepper on top of the trash.

- Prevent access to den sites. Seal up crawl spaces. Skunks can dig, so extend your screening, fencing or lattice work 8-10 inches underground.

- Debris and bush piles should be removed or stacked neatly to eliminate suitable cavities.

- Great horned owls are the skunks only predator. Blow-up or plastic great-horned owls may be strategically placed and periodically moved to deter the skunks.

- Moth balls or ammonia soaked rags may also force the skunk into relocation

- Any deterrent measures must be taken only when you are certain that no skunks are present. May-August is not the time to place deterrents, as babies trapped inside will not survive and will create heartache for all involved.

- Lighting up den sites and a portable radio may cause the skunk to seek a more suitable habitat.

- Keep pet doors closed at night to prevent illegal entry by a skunk.

- Tomato juice or vinegar will neutralize skunk odor on pets and people. Chlorine bleach or ammonia may be used on inanimate objects. Using these items will make the skunk odor tolerable. Only time will fully eliminate the odor however.

- Keep fruit trees picked and do not leave rotted fruit on the ground.

- Securely enclose chicken to prevent skunks from eating eggs and young chickens.

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