Skunks are very docile creatures who have no intention of harming or even interacting with anything other than their food supply. Since they live primarily on insects, snakes, frogs, lizards, rodents, eggs, fruits, vegetation and even carrion, they are very useful creatures to have in our environment. The scent gland is their primary defense, with some help from teeth and claws; however, they have a limited supply of scent fluid and never waste it unnecessarily. Skunks will always warn first before spraying by stomping their feet at a potential attacker and then waiting to see if the “enemy” backs off. Dogs are most often sprayed because they continue to rush toward the skunk after the warning.
A skunk moving about in the daytime is not necessarily cause for concern. While skunks are primarily active at night, when food is scarce and particularly when a mother skunk has babies to feed, it is sometimes necessary for skunks to search for food during the day as well. So, please don’t assume that they are sick and trap or shoot adults; it could be a death sentence for babies as well. And while rabies and other diseases can be carried and transmitted by skunks, bats and raccoons are far more likely to have diseases than skunks in Central Texas.
To determine if an adult skunk is possibly sick, observe it and its behavior. The skunk is probably sick if he/she:
- Shows no fear of people or dogs
- Behaves in a sick or abnormal way (weaving, drooling, approaching people, etc.)
- Makes a continued high shrieking noise (a kind of grunting noise is normal)
- Looks visibly sick and/or disheveled. Skunks normally groom themselves like cats, so the coat will look good on a healthy skunk.
If a skunk is exhibiting any or all of the above conditions, you should avoid the animal and call your local Animal Control. The animal may have distemper, rabies, or some other disease. Do not attempt to trap, feed, or handle the sick animal. Keep pets, livestock and other humans away from the area where the skunk was seen.
If you have found an injured adult, be aware that they can be strong and fast, even when injured. Your best course of action would be to call All Things Wild Rehabilitation to get specific instructions for your situation or contact Animal Control in your area rather than attempt to capture an injured adult. If you really need to move the animal, it is is always best to cover the animal’s head with a towel, to minimize stress and fear; to use gloves; and wear protective clothing.
Move very slowly around skunks. They are extremely nearsighted, so fast movements and loud sounds can startle them and make them spray in defense. Skunks can spray farther than you might think, and they are very accurate and will aim for your eyes. They can also spray multiple times, so don’t assume they’ll stop after spraying once. If the tail is held down aver the anus, however, there is less of a chance they will spray. If you can reach the skunk, they can be “scruffed,” similar to how cat mothers carry their babies, with one hand and supported under their bottom with the other hand while holding the tail down over the anus. Put the animal into a small pet carrier with a towel inside and keep the cage away from noise, pets, and children, preferably with a towel over it.