There may be a skunk in your future - especially if you have a dog you like to take on walks with you at night or on camping trips.
Striped skunks, common in Utah, are active from spring through fall. Night encounters are most likely because that is when they prefer to hunt. They are omnivorous - eating almost anything. Their diet includes insects, rodents, ground squirrels, reptiles, birds, eggs, poultry, fruits, berries and carrion, said Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist.Although they are shy of people, that does not mean they don't live where people live or play. Their dens can be found in rock piles, under old buildings, windrows, hollow logs and abandoned fox and woodchuck dens, Messmer said.
Because skunks scavenge after dark, dogs and pets should be kept inside or restricted at night, said Clell Bagley, USU Extension veterinarian.
Messmer said the striped skunk is a member of the weasel family. The foul odor skunks produce when under stress is secreted from scent glands around the anal region. They can spray their unpleasant odor with accuracy at a range of 10 feet. "Their main defense is retreat," he said. "Spraying is secondary and only occurs when it is absolutely necessary."
Besides their unpleasant odor, skunks pose a health threat.
They are susceptible to the rabies virus and are major carriers of this deadly disease. Although it is more a problem in the Midwest than in the Western states, there have been cases of rabid skunks in Utah, Bagley said.
Like bats, skunks can be carriers of the rabies virus without showing any signs. That is why catching baby skunks for pets poses a special hazard. They may have rabies and you don't even know it. Besides, they make lousy pets. They don't interact very well with people, he said.
Since wild animals are now active through fall, Bagley said, make it a point to have your pets vaccinated for rabies. A vaccination lasts two years for dogs and one year for cats. He said it is as important to vaccinate cats as it is dogs.
The following is a deodorizing formula developed by chemist Paul Krebaum, of Lisle, Ill., for sprayed pets. It was reported in the October 1993 issue of Chemical and Engineering News.
- 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
- 1/4 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- 1 teaspoon liquid soap
After bathing the animal in this formula, follow with a tap water rinse.