Skunk stats (and how to unstink your dog)

WildSafe BC’s Dave White talks skunks

By Dave White

The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is one of Nelson’s most common wildlife species. For someone who owns a dog, and has had it sprayed by a skunk, it may be hard to convince them that skunks are little threat to people. But skunks can actually benefit us by eating insects and rodents around our properties.

The skunk’s most feared weapon, their strong-smelling spray from their anal glands, is rarely used, as they have only enough for five or six sprays and it can take up to 10 days to replenish.

Skunks usually warn you before spraying — they may hiss or stomp. The spray can reach out to three meters. Simply giving a skunk space will lower the probability of getting sprayed. Skunks are usually out only in the evening or night-time, so avoid letting your dog out on its own at this time to lower the chances of a run-in with a skunk.

If your dog is sprayed, the Ontario SPCA recommends a solution of

• One litre of three per cent hydrogen peroxide (available at pharmacy)

• One quarter cup of baking soda

• One teaspoon of liquid dish soap

Wear rubber gloves and wash immediately after spraying. Try not to get the solution in your eyes or your dog’s. Complete instructions can be found at http://ontariospca.ca/blog/how-do-i-de-skunk-a-pet/

To avoid having a skunk around your property, make garbage, fruit, pet food and bird feeders inaccessible. Seal up any holes or possible entrances under outbuildings (but only if you know there are no skunks already inside the structure), and remove brush piles, wood piles and tall grasses.

Also don’t over-water your lawn, as this brings grubs (a favorite food for skunks) close to the surface. If you want a resident skunk to move on, you can place bright lights or a radio near its den.

The stripped skunk is a fascinating creature, closely related to the weasel family, which all share the anal scent gland. The skunk has, through evolution, weaponized this trait. Because of this unique evolutionary feature the skunk has become the bane of pet owners, but with some common sense and through some simple passive techniques most conflict can be avoided.

If you would like to discuss skunks or any other wildlife issues please contact WildSafeBC at nelson@wildsafebc.com or phone 250-505-6007. If you are experiencing a conflict with wildlife please call the Conservation Officer Service, RAPP Line at 1 (877) 952-7277.