He wasn’t expecting skunks to get this much attention.
The local co-ordinator for WildSafe B.C., Dave White, spends most of his time thinking about and dealing with bears. But now that he’s the city’s point-person for the new skunk strategy, he’s fielding an awful lot of calls about the striped critters.
“My personal experience may be different than someone who has a pet dog, but usually you’re not going to have a problem with skunks spraying,” White told the Star.
“Skunks don’t like to spray. They don’t like to use their spray. They only have about 15 millilitres on either side of their anus, so they only have enough for about one to five sprays.”
It takes about 10 days for their spray to replenish.
“They conserve it for absolute desperate situations, so of course if you kick it or approach it in an aggressive way, it might spray. But otherwise you should be fine.”
White’s job now is to travel around to residents’ homes to help them identify the denning areas being used by the skunks and ensuring they are covered up or blocked off. Along the way he will educate residents on topics such as how to wash your dog after a spray and how to manage your attractants.
One attractant that’s impossible to manage: grubs.
“Skunks might damage lawns looking for them, digging them up. But other than that, if you manage your garbage and don’t let pet food outside and fence your yard, making it unpleasant for them makes it less likely they’ll return.”
The other thing? They’re not climbers.
“Raccoons are a different story, they’re a bit trickier, but if you have a proper fence skunks shouldn’t even be able to gain access.”
Residents should call White if they have skunks in their yard, but he wants them to know he doesn’t carry traps, and wouldn’t use them anyway under any circumstance.
“For us, it’s purely educational. The only reason light’s being shined on WildSafe B.C.’s strategy on skunks rather than bears right now is because Nelson is moving towards the way other cities are doing things, away from trapping and towards education.”
So that means the 100 skunks trapped annually by Nelson Urban Trappers are safe for the time being. White doubts that will create a population explosion.
“The skunk population, they’ll compete for available resources, and if we manage our attractants there won’t be that many calories to get at. They’ll have to resort to natural things, like insects and rodents, maybe some fruit.”
There are also natural predators.
“Once a skunk loses its spray, it has no defence. Where I live up at Mountain Station we have no skunks, and no raccoons, because of the coyotes and wolves.”
The biggest thing for people to keep in mind are the den sites.
“If you can identify the den site and deny them access, they only move about one kilometre from their home so you will only have incidental run-ins with skunks coming across your property.”
But the trouble is, no matter how fastidious residents are, that doesn’t mean neighbours will follow suit. White adds he doesn’t judge those who resort to trapping or hiring private contractors.
“We’re not really pro or anti anything, we just try to give people the best information. We just talk to people, educate them. Everyone has busy lives and not everybody wants to put up chicken wire or do these things, but if they do, the problem will go away.”