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The natural world: Our stinky wildlife

Friday, February 1st, 2013 | Posted by

The natural world

You may be noticing lots of dead skunks on the roads these days. Adult females are getting ready to mate and are sending their now “adolescent “ young off to fend for themselves. Some are a little less knowledgeable about the automotive world and don’t survive.

There are two types of skunk found in California, the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis ) familiar to us all and the rarer spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis). They are members of the weasel family and feed on berries, fruit, insects, grubs and small rodents. We are all familiar with their famous defense mechanism.

They like burrows but don’t like digging, so take over the abandoned burrows of other animals. Once they mate the gestation is about nine weeks and the litters range from four to six “kits”.

In addition to the odorous spray that can make one nauseous and even temporarily blind one, one needs to be wary of skunks because the often carry rabies. Fortunately they are nocturnal hunters so it isn’t likely you will run into one, except if you are driving fast at night and the inexperienced young get in your way.

The biggest predators who don’t seem to mind the odor are Great Horned Owls. If a skunk gets under your house at night while they are hunting put up a plastic replica of an owl nearby their entrance and they will not get back under. Very rarely other hunters such as coyotes will kill a skunk.

Should you have an encounter with a skunk the California Department of Agriculture has an odor removing remedy: 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide , 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon liquid soap. And there is always the folk remedy of lots of tomato juice!


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Andrea Granahan is our Bodega area correspondent.
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