Skunk Mating Season: Local Wildlife And Your Pets


This is the time of year in Clifton when you might catch a whiff of an acrid smell as you walk your dog. If it’s not your neighbor breaking out the marijuana, it may be because it’s skunk mating season and these little rancid Romeos are out looking for love in all the wrong places. Skunk mating season goes from late January to early March, and as a result, they are more likely than normal to bump into you or your pet on your late night dog walk.

Skunks themselves have very little odor that a human nose can detect - they are much less smelly than dogs or the average tomcat. Their spray, however, is extremely strong smelling and can burn eyes and mucous membranes if it is administered from up close. Skunk spray is a yellow volatile oil that is made of organic sulfur-containing thiols. Sulfur has an odor often described as spoiled cabbage or rotten eggs. And the smell is remarkably good at enduring.

Please take extra care when you let your pets out in the evenings, so they don’t inadvertently surprise a skunky Lothario and get a face full of spray.  

If your dog does get sprayed, there are several commercial skunk shampoos that can help as well as home remedies.

My dog had a close encounter of the odiferous kind with a skunk last winter, and the smell, which seemed fine when we were outside, just seemed to get stronger and more potent when we brought him in to bathe him. Ordinary shampoo and water is no match for the skunk smell, so there are several home remedies people recommend when it’s 11 pm and your PetCo is closed. We used this one, recommended by the ASPCA: a combination of dish soap and peroxide with a hefty dose of swearing.

Whether on skin or fur, use the following recipe:

* 1 quart of 3% (household strength) hydrogen peroxide

* ¼ cup of baking soda

* 1 teaspoonful of liquid dish detergent.

For it to be effective, this solution has to be used immediately after mixing. Apply for five minutes, then rinse; repeat as needed. Do not apply this mixture to the eyes or mouth. Rinse eyes gently with room temperature water for 15 minutes. Tomato juice, a popular home remedy, has not been shown to be effective.

If your dog is sprayed, keep an eye on their reactions. If your dog is sprayed in the eyes or mouth, you might notice drooling, vomiting, red and swollen eyes, sneezing, and temporary blindness. A more serious syndrome, in which the skunk spray damages the red blood cells, has been described in dogs following heavy exposure, but it’s quite rare.

As skunks can carry rabies, make sure to take your pet to the vet if they were bitten by a skunk.

Skunks are native to Clifton and they can be valuable garden helpers as they mostly eat insects and small rodents. They’re normally eager to avoid us and our pets, but in mating season, their excitement at finding love may be stronger than their sense of self-preservation.

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