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Wild Skunks

Dear Sophie,

I live in a suburb of Philadelphia and have many skunks living in my area. I was under the impression that skunks hibernated. Tonight I was out for an evening walk with my dog when we crossed paths with a big skunk. The temperature is about 15 degrees and we are in for a rather major snowstorm. Is it true that ALL skunks hibernate? Was this behavior unusual? Thanks for any information you can offer.
A Nature Enthusiast

Sophie says,

Skunks are not true hibernators, they do take long naps in cold weather though. True hibernators have almost no respiration. They take one or two breaths per minute and their heart rate slows considerably. Studies show that a skunks heart, temperature and respiration drops only a little. Skunks also wake to seek food if the temperature warms even slightly.
They do prepare for winter like hibernators, by going on eating binges in the fall. The skunk you saw was probably a male. The males are more active than females in the winter months. Perhaps he needed a snack before the snowstorm hit.

Dear Sophie,

How often can a skunk spray? What is best for getting the smell out of your house?
RT, Virginia

Sophie says,

Sophie is a domestic skunk and cannot spray, darn it. She found some information for you that states that wild skunks have enough scent to shoot and reload 5 or 6 times. This is roughly equal to a tablespoon.
The following Skunk Smell Remover Formula is included at the end of the article. It is supposed to be effective in removing skunk smell from sprayed victims and objects.

1 U.S. Quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide.
1/4 Cup baking soda.
1 teaspoon liquid soap.
Directions: Mix together at time of usage, and apply foaming mixture to affected areas, let sit for 5 minutes and rinse. Repeat if needed.

Dear Sophie,

I have an apartment house in upstate NY. Last night one of my elderly tenants called at 2 am. She woke to use the bathroom and while walking through her kitchen she noticed her black cat eating at the cat's dish. A second look confirmed her black cat grew a white stripe. She ran back to her bedroom locking the door and called me. We easily solved the problem by opening the door and it went. The more puzzling part was how it got in. The heat register was dislodged from the floor in the living room. It apparently chewed, clawed, or otherwise made it's way into the heating system. Crawled down the tube to the floor register, pushing it up into the room and climbed in. I've walked the entire perimeter of the house finding no holes under the foundation, however most was covered with a heavy layer of snow. I saw no fresh tracks in the snow either. There could have been some points of entry a few weeks ago but snow and ice have covered them since. Another interesting thing is we were doing work in the basement yesterday and noticed a hole in the ground under a crawl space near where we were working. Did we wake him out of hibernation and he couldn't get out the entry hole? Would this cause him to act as I said above? What do I do now? How can I prevent this again? Could it be entering through a more distant hole? Any help would be appreciated.

Sophie says,

Sophie is not an expert in the field of wild skunks, but I can explain some of the whys you have. Skunks do not have the same fear/dislike of humans that wild animals usually have. This is one of the reasons we have become popular as pets. If you take a wild skunk and a domestic skunk as a kitten, the only difference is that the wild skunk still has their scent gland. If both animals were treated in the same way, handled and treated as a pet, both would become loving pets, with the exception of the wild skunk would start to pull away in adolescence if not spayed/nuetered do to natural instincts kicking in. It is a matter of nurture not nature that makes the difference. In many rural places, wild skunks are treated like friendly guests and fed, sometimes going inside peoples' houses without ever spraying them. This is not recommended and there are very severe laws about making pets of wild animals. Rabies being a factor here.
I can certainly see why your tenant would be alarmed by the situation. She is lucky it did not join her in bed as I do my parents. Skunks do not hibernate, their bodily functions do not drop enough to call it hibernation. They do sleep for several days at a time, then search for food. The more aggressive searchers are usually male. Because the animal was successful before, it will remember where it was fed. You must be diligent about sealing the heating vent as skunks are incredibly strong for their size. Sophie can push or pull at least 30lbs, which is 3 times her weight. He will be back if he can.
You are right about it living somewhere underneath the house. It probably smelled the cat's food. Here is a link to a site with information about humane removal of this type of animal. Please be careful not to seal it up so it starves to death.

Visit Urban Wildlife Rescue

Dear Sophie,

We have a skunk trapped under the neighbors porch. First, is it wise to capture a wild skunk and then tame it? How do you de-scent it? If buying skunks are better, do you know of a reputable skunk dealer in Central West Virginia?
Thank you!
J.A., WV

Sophie says,

First of all, it can be dangerous to try to handle a wild animal. Many have distemper or other illnesses that could spread to other pets. Second, many states have severe penalties for removing wild life from the wild. You must contact the wildlife department in your state to find out if it is legal.
West Virginia allows skunks as pets with a permit if purchased from a breeder within the state. No importation allowed, if caught the animal may be euthanized. If it is legal for you to keep the animal, you would have to find a vet experienced and willing to descent the animal. This may range from very expensive to impossible depending on far you can travel.
Is it possible the skunk moved in under the porch and isn't trapped? If you do believe it is trapped, please contact someone who can remove it and treat the injuries if any.
If you do decide to adopt a domestic skunk, babies are available in the spring of each year. The best way to locate breeders within your state is to join one or more of the skunk lists sponsored by yahoo and ask other members from your state.

Dear Sophie,

My husband ran into a family of skunks. The dad had a big white spot on his head, a thin strip on his back and a white tail. The mom had a wide stripe down her back. The three babies were solid white. Is this unusual? This is in North Carolina.

Sophie says,

It is very unusual to see a male with a female and babies. They only interact to breed in late winter or early spring. On occasion, males will share a den with one or more females during the winter.
There are two types of wild skunks who have only one stripe down their backs, they are called hog nosed skunks and hooded skunks. Neither is found in your state. The two striped skunk is probably what you are describing as there are cases where the stripes are very wide and appear to grow together. All white coloring is caused by recessive genes. It is quite uncommon for all three of the kits to be white.


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