Skunks can be very destructive to property. They often cause problems by digging hole after hole after hole in your lawn, raiding garbage cans, chicken coops, honeybee hives, in search of food. Most customers find dens in crawl space, garages, under sheds, in wood or debris piles, etc.
They are carriers and transmitters of a variety of diseases, some of which are very harmful to both people and our pets.
There is cause for concern when skunks take up residence in an urban or suburban area because in Michigan they are primary carriers of rabies, a viral disease transmitted by the bite of an infected animal, and pseudorabies.
Rabies, an infectious disease caused by a virus organism, is found in the saliva of infected animals. It affects only mammals and is transmitted most commonly by a bite. With the exception of bats, the disease is almost always fatal. People can survive the bite of a rabid animal, but only if medical attention is received in time. A physician should attend to ALL skunk bites, no matter how minor, and the local health department should be notified of the incident.
Skunks that seem tame or listless and wander about during daylight hours should be treated with great caution because this behavior is symptomatic of rabies. Also, if they exhibit no fear of people or pets and show some aggressive behavior, chances are quite high that they are rabid. In Michigan, Skunks are at a higher risk to carry rabies than other creatures on the ground. From 1978 to 2000 (most recent data found on official Michigan website) there were 70 cases of skunks testing positive for rabies. By comparison in the same time frame, only 4 racoons tested positive. Of course, bats were the largest carriers at 559 cases.
Skunks are also carriers of other diseases that are much more common than rabies including leptospirosis, listeriosis, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, Q-fever, tularemia, and trypanosoma.
They also introduce a variety of parasites, including ticks, mites, fleas, etc and the diseases associated with parasites.
Skunks are members of the weasel family and are equipped with a powerful and protective scent gland that can shoot a potent and pungent liquid as far as 6 to 10 feet. The secretion is acrid enough to cause nausea and can produce severe burning and temporary blindness if it strikes the eyes.
Aside from their horrible sulphury-miserable spray, skunks can also attack people if provoked by a person, or they may be ill and attack for no apparent visible reason at all. If you are bitten or scratched by a wild animal, please make sure you tell the nuisance control operator immeidately, as other precautions must be made on behalf of the state. Furthermore, seek immediate medical attention for the person who had contact with the animal.
Never touch a wild animal of ANY TYPE. You may jeapordize your health, the health and safety of the animal or its offspring, the demeanor of the animal, or the success that the animal will have on its own and without human intervention.
Biology/ Animal Information
Latin name: Mephitis mephitis
The striped skunk is about the size of an adult house cat and its fur is mostly black with white on top of the head and neck. In most animals the white extends down the back, usually separating into two white stripes.
Skunks are nocturnal, hunting at night for insects, grubs, small rodents, snakes, frogs, mushrooms, berries and fruit, pet food, bird food, and garbage. Skunks have a high preference for eggs and, as a result, ground-nesting birds suffer losses.
Breeding usually occurs during March for the striped skunk; gestation time is about 9 weeks and litters range from four to six kits. After a few months the kits can be seen following their mother as she makes her nightly rounds in search of food. Skunks do not hibernate, but in regions of colder weather females may congregate in communal dens during the winter.
Skunks often den in burrows, but because they prefer to do as little digging as possible, they will use abandoned burrows dug by ground squirrels, fox, or coyotes, enlarging them only if necessary. If dens are scarce, they will readily use brush piles, hollow logs, and culverts. In urban settings, they den under decks, porches, or beneath buildings.