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Birds and Wildlife

Skunks
Polly Adcock


November 2020

One day this summer my husband and I were stopped on Hwy. 101 for road repair. While waiting we smelled skunk and then another time while hiking on private property, we smelled skunk. Having lived here almost twenty years and never even seen or “smelled” a deceased skunk on the road, the question came to me, “Are there skunks here on the Peninsula?” or was I smelling “farm produce?”

I checked online sites but didn't get quite the definite answer so I inquired of a long-time resident and he said yes, there are, but he hadn't seen any in long time. I went again to wafw.wa.gov and found most of my information there.

There are two kinds of skunks. One is the striped house cat size and the other is smaller, more squirrel size with white spots on its forehead, cheeks and rump a.k.a. Pole cat (I wonder if that is because it is a climber).

Both are considered mild-tempered creatures and will defend themselves only when cornered or attacked. Because of their poor eye sight, they might wander too close, so be CALM and back away. They are able to unload just a mist as a warning, and who wants even that!

The government site said there were mostly nocturnal. The long-time resident taught me a new word, crepuscular animal meaning active at dawn or dusk which other sites stated they are.

It is illegal to make one of these animals a pet. Even if their babies are cute, they have long claws that do not retract to soft kitty paws.

These claws are used to obtain foods such as mice, moles, voles, rats, birds and their eggs, grasshoppers, wasps, bees, beetles and their larvae which makes the skunk beneficial to farmers, gardeners, and landowners. However, they will eat fruits, nuts, garden crops, will scavenge garbage cans, and carcasses. While researching this I saw a picture of a fox waiting for the skunk to finish at a carcass. Possibly a photo shop!

The striped skunk prefers to live in the lowlands, open fields, crop lands near brushy fencerows, suburban and urban locations particularly near open water. The Pole cat is more likely seen around forests and woodlands and not as tolerant of human activity as the striped skunk.

A striped skunk lives approximately four years and the spotted about half that time within a home range of less than two miles. Their predators are HUNGRY coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and cougars and large owls (which have little sense of smell).

They use underground dens year-round which can be under porches, buildings, culverts, standing or fallen trees, wood or rock piles. The spotted climber may use an attic or hayloft. They do not hibernate but instead lower body temperature and plug the den entrance with leaves or grass in colder weather.

Since they will eat birdseed and pet food, the WDFW recommends putting it away at night and on their site there are many recommendations to keep skunks from becoming a nuisance to homeowners as well as a RECIPE for a wash in case you or your pet is sprayed.

I wonder if anyone remembers Homer and Jethro who made a song satire of Hank Snow's “Movin' On”. “Well, the slicker from the city was a feelin' pretty until he picked up a striped kitty, he's movin' on. We held our nose as we buried his clothes, he's movin' on.”