Did your eyes deceive you, or did you just see a baby skunk scurry by? Get near a mama skunk and her kits, and your nose may confirm what your eyes took in.
A skunk’s scent is its defense mechanism. Would-be predators usually know to avoid the black-and-white striped critter, but humans and household pets that come too close or alarm the animal risk a smelly surprise.
Did you know, though, that the spray is also associated with other activities, such as the annual mating ritual? In fact, particular skunk mating habits in Milwaukee may explain why certain times of year are more, well, potent than others.
The Mating Ritual
The striped skunk (the most common skunk in Milwaukee) mates each year in February and March. Males can mate with multiple females and will often fight over their desired partner. When these brawls take place, you may hear more noises around your property; hissing, screeching, and foot-stamping are all normal behavior before the animal resorts to spraying a competitor.
When males spray while arguing over the same female, the scent they expel can be detected up to a mile away. They aren’t the only ones to use their odor during the mating ritual, either. If a female doesn’t want to mate with the male courting her, she’ll spray him in an effort to ward off those advances. This isn’t a full spray, since she wants to conserve her supply (about 15 milliliters when full), but it’s enough to reach the unwanted partner — and your nose.
Maternity Dens and Baby Skunk Birth
Once a male skunk has successfully mated with a partner, the female retreats to a den where she’ll spend the next 60 to 75 days. During this time, her placenta nurtures the kits she’s carrying until they are born, deaf and blind. These babies gain their eyesight around three weeks old, though it is very poor.
Sometime between six and eight weeks after birth, the kits emerge from the den with their mother, whom they’ll stay with until they’re ready to mate.
Other Times of Year
Skunks are crepuscular creatures, meaning they’re most active at dusk and dawn. This is when they move out of and back into their dens, respectively. Though they’re incredibly near-sighted, adult skunks have excellent hearing. This makes them easy to startle, which can also trigger a release of scent.
Keep in mind that skunks don’t hibernate and therefore have the potential to be active year-round. However, they do slow down in the colder months and often huddle in dens for warmth despite being relatively solitary animals during other times of the year.
Skunk Removal Services
If you live in an area with a large skunk population, you may have the critters on your property, where they can do damage. Having them removed so they’re away from pets, children, and your home is important — even if the skunks aren’t aggressive. Remember that they’re defensive and can be hard to see during the twilight hours when they’re also the most active. The last thing you need is for you and your pet to be sprayed during an evening dog walk!
If you’re in need of skunk removal, call a professional. The trained technicians at Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control in Milwaukee can help by assessing areas where skunk dens are typically found (such as under decks or porches) and safely removing the animals. Rest assured that any babies will be humanely moved to a heated baby box and relocated, along with their mother. With this peace of mind, you can go about your daily life during mating season and all year long without worrying that skunks may be using your outdoor areas as dens or breeding grounds.