Why Do Skunks Stink?

Skunks are small cat-sized creatures native to North and South America who enjoy living in solitude. They have a very strong sense of smell and excellent hearing to make up for their poor vision. Skunks are opportunistic feeders that will eat fruit, berries, bugs, mice and even pet food. They are usually recognized for their black coat with white stripes.

Skunks are notorious for their stinky smell, but have you ever wondered why do skunks stink? Their smell is a unique form of defense used to ward off predators or unwanted guests when they feel threatened. When the skunk’s black and white coloring or foot stomping is not enough warning to predators, they will resort to scaring them off with their potent spray. Skunks have the ability to spray from two glands located on each side of their anus. Skunks only carry enough of this chemical for five to six uses and it requires up to 10 days to produce a new supply.

The skunk’s spray is a thiol, an organic compound in which sulfur is one of the main components. Sulfur has a rotten egg scent that is distained by most, making a skunk’s spray extremely pungent. The scent is so strong it can be smelled up to half a mile away and can linger for days to weeks. Their spray can also cause stinging of the eyes, temporary blindness, and nausea. Skunks have impressive aim and can hit targets with accuracy up to 10 feet away. Due to their smell, most predators, such as fox, wolves, and badgers, rarely attack skunks. However, the Great Horned Owl is the skunks only regular predator.

Humans and pet owners want to be sure to avoid a run in with a frightened skunk, as the smell of their spray is very difficult to get rid of for both people and pets. Home remedies to remove the scent are no match for the chemical makeup of a skunk’s spray.

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