Chronicle of Mt. Juliet

Larry Woody: Watch out for Mr. Stinky

Polecat perfume is in the air. SUBMITTED

This time of year, you’re liable to smell trouble in the air.

Mr. Stinky is on the prowl.

It’s mating season for skunks, and when their mind is on romance, they become giddy and on the go. They waddle across roads, heedless of traffic. Defunct Romeos in striped suits are common sights, with polecat perfume wafting in the air.

Like other wildlife, skunks are increasingly invading humans’ territory – or vice-versa – making encounters more and more common.

Skunks dig holes in lawns, gardens and golf courses searching for grubs and voles, but the real problem is when they decide to set up housekeeping under a home. They consider crawl spaces an ideal place to den up and raise their litters.

Skunks are docile until threatened or frightened. Then they resort to nature’s most effective defense system: they throw their scent. The oily spray is squirted from rear-end glands and is perhaps the most nauseating, lingering odor on the planet.

Skunks usually issue a warning, stamping their front feet and turning their flared tail toward the aggressor. If that doesn’t work, they fire away.

If a skunk throws its scent under a house, it’s moving time. Fumigation can take days or weeks.

That’s why trapping them is so difficult. It’s not the trapping – skunks are easy to catch in a baited trap – it’s what happens next that’s touchy. The trapped skunk may become alarmed and agitated and throw its scent, or throw it when someone tries to remove it.

Don’t try this at home. It’s wise to call a professional animal-control trapper. They charge less than a fumigator.

Some suggest luring Mr. Stinky from under the house with bait, then sealing the crawl space. But skunks are nocturnal, so you might wait all night for one to come out. And what if you seal a remaining skunk inside?

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency classifies skunks as nuisance animals along with coyotes, beavers, groundhogs and armadillos. They can be hunted and trapped year-round, without limit.

But nobody hunts skunks, and few fur trappers bother with them. At one time skunk pelts were fairly valuable, but nowadays bring only $1 or so. They’re not worth a fur trapper’s time and trouble.

Skunks have no natural predators, aside from an occasional desperate hoot owl, so automobiles are their only threat.

You’ll know they’re in the neighborhood when they hose down a neighborhood pooch that messes with them. Next thing you know, they’ve moved under your house.

When that happens it’s wise to tread carefully and call in a pro to deal with the little stinkers.

Leave a Reply