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In the growing dark of the evening, there was a rustling in the bushes and a small black shadow scampered across the path. We slowed down. Were our eyes playing tricks on us? What was that? We were almost home from an evening stroll when we stopped, surprised. The motion detecting light of a neighbor’s house flashed on and the yellow glow illuminated our little black shadow. It was still black but in the fluffy blackness a thin white stripe gleamed. It was a skunk!

Skunks are known by their unique markings.

We froze. It froze. We began slowly to back away keeping our eyes on the black furry skunk. For such a small animal, we treated it with a great amount of respect and personal space, backing away quietly and quickly without making any sudden movements. Perhaps you’ve had a similar encounter with this shy nocturnal creature. They are small, roughly the size of a small cat or dog and usually solitary and prefer to dig for grubs and worms in the dark of night.

We had surprised this particular skunk in the process of searching our neighbor’s yard for its breakfast. For such a small animal, skunks have a pretty large reputation. Anyone who has ever had a dog or cat get sprayed by a skunk doesn’t easily forget the encounter.

Skunks are common throughout North America and are known for their unique defensive technique of spraying a foul smelling oil on their enemies. This technique is not their primary means of defending themselves. Usually, a skunk will first growl or spit and start shaking its tail. Once that fails to scare off the intruder or attacker, the skunk will turn to spray!

A Skunk’s first response is not to spray.

This spray is a sulfuric oil that is released from the glands near the tail and released as a type of mist up to 10 feet from the skunk. The spray leaves a lasting memory for the unfortunate animal in that radius. All other animals in roughly the surrounding 1.5 miles can still smell the spray. That is one of the unique traits that makes skunks so special. For such a small and cute looking animal, it can really pack a punch to the senses. A nice reminder to everyone not to judge based on appearances and to treat all creatures with respect.

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