Living in rural Minnesota has been a wonderful experience, but sometimes it comes with unexpected challenges. There is a river and woods to the east of where I live and many animals travel across my property to reach it. We have deer, wild turkeys, hawks, eagles, turkey vultures, and many other wild birds; as well as raccoons, opossums and an occasional skunk. While I love watching all the wild traffic across the property, sometimes we come into closer contact with it than we would like.
Now with the days getting warmer, more wildlife is beginning to stir, and though skunks do not hibernate, during cold weather they do tend to den up and not eat as much, so we and our pets are less likely to run into them. My mother-in-law’s dog had a closer encounter recently with a skunk to her detriment, as she got sprayed.
There are some easy ways to stay out of their way if you tend to have them in your neighborhood. Most skunks are crepuscular, which means they come out at dusk and dawn. If you see a skunk out in the middle of the day, there may be something wrong with it, as skunks do not go out in full daylight. So try walking after daybreak and before dusk, you will have less chance of running into one. If you do happen upon one while walking with your dog, you should know that they can spray up to 15 feet (5 meters) away with a high degree of accuracy.
While it is a myth that skunks can only spray once before their body has to manufacture more musk, they can actually spray up to six times before their body has to make more. As this can take up to 10 days, skunks are reluctant to spray and usually warn whatever is threatening them. They do this by stamping their feet and raising their tail to display their stripes. Sometimes they will even wave their tail to get your attention. If you have to go out after dark, take a flashlight with you to light your way. To keep them out of your yard, make sure all garbage is in a can with a tight sealing lid, or in the garage or shed behind a closed door. As skunks are omnivores and scavengers, garbage is an easy mark for them and they will take advantage of it.
If your dog (or cat) is sprayed, tomato juice while an old standby is a myth and will not take away the odor. Try skunk odor removal products like Odormute™, which can be mixed in three strengths depending on the smell you are dealing with. A groomer’s favorite is Masengil powdered douche, and from what I understand works very well. There are many commercial products on the market today, specifically for skunk odor, but I haven’t tried any of them. I’ve always relied on Odormute™ and have for many years, because it works very well on many organic odors.
Here is a recipe for dealing with the odor. Mix together the following ingredients: 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide 3% solution and 1/4 cup baking soda. Add to a small amount of liquid detergent, and wash your dog. Make sure to rinse well to get all suds out of your dog’s coat.
By following commonsense practices when walking with your dog and safe garbage storage, you should have fewer issues with this smelly neighbor from the forest.