What Causes a Skunk to Smell so Bad?

Photo by Bryan Padron on Unsplash

If you have ever been sprayed by a skunk, or if you have ever even smelled a skunk, you know how bad a skunk smells when it sprays, but have you ever stopped to wonder why a skunk smells so bad? This article will take a look at skunks more closely and help you understand why skunks smell the way they do.

A skunk does not just smell, and skunks are actually pretty cute and quite friendly. There are “three types of skunks,” and they are known as the “striped skunk, the hog nosed skunk, and the spotted skunk” (Leokum, 1986, p. 166). Many of us remember the cartoon skunk with the one strip down the back; it is interesting to learn that there are skunks with spots. The skunk is native to the “North, Central, and South America”, and the longest skunks are “two and half feet long, including the nine inch tail, and they weigh as much as 30 pounds” (Leokum, 1986, p. 166). Skunks come in more varieties than I already knew, but I have seen skunks that are about two feet long so it is easy to imagine a 30 pound skunk.

Skunks dig hole to find food. Their front feet have “long claws”, and they use these claws to dig insects out of the ground for food (Leokum, 1986, p.166). Skunks are useful animals to people because they eat a lot of thing that we do not necessarily like around. Skunks eat “beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, wasps, rodents, and snakes,” but the holes left by them might become an annoyance (Leokum, 1986, p.166).

When a skunk feels threatened it will spray, and it is this spray that actually smells bad. The skunk has two “powerful scent glands” that are located “under the tail,” and these glands contain a liquid that can “cause temporary blindness” if it gets in the eyes, and it can have a “suffocating effect” (Leokum, 1986, p.166). The skunk can shoot this liquid out of his glands in order to protect himself. The spray can “travel over nine feet” and the skunk’s gland contains enough of this stinky liquid to shoot five or six times (Leokum, 1986, p.166). A skunk’s gland is a very useful defense mechanism.

A skunk may be able to squirt some stink stuff, but it will give you warning before it sprays you. The skunk will “raise its tail or stamp its feet” before he sprays in order to scare off whatever it is he feels threatened by (Leokum, 1986 p.166).

Skunks are very cute pets, and some people have their glands removed in order to keep them as pets, but wild skunks sure can smell.

Reference:
Leokum, A. (1986). The Big book of tell me why. New York, NY: Grosset and Dunlap.

Originally published at https://sarahganly.blogspot.com.

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