Skunks & Spraying

Skunks use their spray as a defense mechanism when trapped or pursued. Given the opportunity, however, they would prefer to walk away from danger and spray only as a last resort.

Two glands located on either side of the anal opening eject a yellowish, oily substance that contains the active ingredient in skunk musk, n-butyl mercaptan. Skunks can project the fluid, emitted as a fine spray or stream, at a distance of 15 feet and have sufficient supply for five consecutive discharges.

Should you and a skunk meet "face to face," stand still or slowly back away so the skunk doesn’t feel trapped. The skunk will give a warning that it’s about to spray by arching its back, raising its tail high in the air, turning its back toward the enemy, and stomping its front feet.

Eliminating the Smell

If the spray affects your eyes or your pet’s eyes, flush with water for 10 minutes to relieve the discomfort. The spray won’t cause permanent damage, but it can sting painfully. Avoid rubbing the eyes.

If you find spray on your body or your pet’s coat, wipe it with paper towel first. Then mix 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide (3%), ¼ cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of dish detergent in a bucket. Use an old washcloth to apply the solution to the skin, hair, or fur of the person or pet, avoiding the eyes, ears, and mouth.

If needed, re-apply the solution and rinse again. Use this mixture immediately. Do not store! Hydrogen peroxide does bleach, so if you’re concerned about lightening hair or fur, substitute white vinegar.

To clean outdoor furniture that’s been sprayed by a skunk, wash with a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Don’t use this mixture on fabric.

Should a skunk spray indoors, vent the building as much as possible by placing fans in open windows or doors to draw the odorous air out. Place boxes of baking soda around the area and be patient; the odor will dissipate with time.