Skunks, of the family Mephitdae, have an appearance almost as memorable as their characteristic foul odor. Their bold, black and white fur serves as a warning: “come any closer and you will get sprayed.” Originally thought to be members of the weasel family, skunks have recently been given their own evolutionary branch, due primarily to some major differences found within their genetics. There are 11 species of skunk around the world; 4 of which live in North America, with only one species inhabiting New York State.
Skunk Spray, a chemical called N-butlymercaptan, is a volatile mix of sulfur-containing compounds. The skunk produces and stores these chemicals in a pair of glands on the lateral sides of its anus. It stores enough for roughly 5 sprays, and it will need more than a week to produce more. The spray can reach almost 15 ft with impressive accuracy. The victim will not only succumb to the smell, but may also experience temporary eye irritation or blindness. It is an effective defense that keeps all but a few sneaky predators away.
The skunk does not have to spray at every encounter, nor does it want to. Since it takes so long to replenish its supply of spray, it uses a few tactics as warning prior to letting loose. The skunk’s bold black and white fur pattern is unmistakable. And if the appearance doesn’t make the threat turn back, the skunk will raise its fur and tail (to appear larger), hiss and stomp its feet. If the threat still does not go away, the skunk will assume the spraying posture: it will form a U-shape with its body, its tail lifted up, head and rear facing toward the threat, and spray. The spray will stick to fur and saturate the air immediately around the vicinity. Skunk spray can last for days to months depending on the amount.
Surprisingly, skunks will not spray other skunks; possibly because it may be ineffective on each other. When these usually solitary animals fight (usually over a mate or a den), they do it with tooth and claw.
In some parts of the world skunks are kept as pets. They are very docile and pleasant animals. Owners typically have the scent glands removed.
Getting rid of Skunk spray has always been a challenge. There are many myths as to what to use. Oddly enough, many of home remedies overlap with what folks say will remove bubblegum stuck in hair. Removing all traces of the spray will be a challenge. Luckily, chemists have identified the chemical make-up of the spray and identified specific chemicals to neutralize the odorous ones. And before trying what Old Aunt Elsa says her grand-pappy did when they got sprayed as kids back before the great war, try one of the two dependable ways of getting rid of skunk odor:
The Old-Fashioned Way
The Hi-tech way
Make your own odor neutralizer
In a pinch, this formula will work well against skunk spray. Mix immediately before use and do not store. Be careful using this around the eyes.
Skunk Stink Help – Shampoos and Odor Neutralizers
A Guide to Skunks
Research / Writing