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A stinky valentine

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By The Staff

Many people wonder why our county roads are littered with dead skunks, and the air is heavy with their malodorous scent every February.

Skunks are a hibernating species. They are the first of the hibernators to awaken, and it is typically in early February. When skunks come out of hibernation they have two things on their mind: dinner and a date. Skunks are omnivorous, meaning they eat anything and everything. And their breeding season starts in February. 

Skunks only spray when frightened or seriously threatened.  Skunks are actually gentle, non-aggressive animals, whose sole defense is their powerful scent glands. The scent glands are located under the tail, and they spray an oil from them. This oil is caustic and momentarily blinds and gags their target. 

So if your dog gets sprayed by a skunk, there are products that neutralize the oil before it is washed out of the dog’s fur. Tomato or other acidic juices will also help neutralize this oil. Bathing the dog without first neutralizing the odor will simply spread the oil. 

Skunks are nocturnal and den underground. So use caution in letting your dog out at night, especially this time of year, when skunks are emerging from their burrows. 

Great Horned Owls are a major predator of skunks. Skunks have poor eyesight and the large silent owls swoop down on them from above. Skunks are rabies carriers so caution should be used any time one has to deal with skunks. They do settle down after the February through March breeding season.

— Submitted by Barbara Rosenman, director, Oldham County Animal Control