Striped Skunk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
BY WILLIAM E. CLEARY SR.
GLOUCESTER CITY NJ--Have you noticed the strong odor of skunks this year in certain sections
of Gloucester City especially late in the evening ? Not every night but close to it. Has your pet, or the pet of someone you know, had a run in with a skunk this year? Have you seen any skunks running around in your yard? Your neighborhood? We asked local residents those questions recently and were surprised at how many of them responded yes to each one.
Skunks can be found all across North America and into British Columbia. And no doubt they have lived here and elsewhere in South Jersey forever. But, as a life long resident of Gloucester City I can only recall seeing a skunk in our city during those 70 years maybe once or twice.
In April, early in the morning, we had the bedroom windows opened when we were awakened by a terrible skunk odor that lasted for at least an hour. Later that day one of our neighbors told us their daughter saw two skunks running across their backyard around 2 AM. She went after the skunks with a broom and they retaliated by spraying her. Why would anyone chase a skunk? Who knows?
Most recently Molly, our grand dog, who also lives in the Riverview Heights section of the city, was headed out to the backyard for her nightly business when she was sprayed.
My granddaughter Jes said, “It was so sad to watch Molly trying to get back into the house. At first we didn’t know what had happened to her, but then we smelled it and knew that a skunk had gotten the best of her. We had a very difficult time trying to get the smell off of her and out of our home. We spent hours cleaning and were thankfully able to get an emergency appointment at A+ Pet Grooming the very next morning. Unfortunately, there is still a faint skunk smell on Molly every time she gets wet. We have been told that this could last for several months!”
In the last month we received numerous reports from people sighting skunks on both the east and west side of Broadway. Besides the black skunks with the white stripe, people have also reported seeing a pure white skunk running on both sides of Broadway. Someone told us that a white skunk is actually the male of the species. We could find no such information in our internet search to confirm that theory.
Piper had a run-in with a resident skunk in August 2007. She took a direct hit to the face and got second degree burns on her muzzle. None of us knew that skunk funk is almost 100% sulphuric acid! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A skunk's spray is an oily liquid produced by glands under its large tail. According to National Geographic (Nat Geo) to employ this scent bomb, a skunk turns around and blasts its foe with a foul mist that can travel as far as 10 feet (three meters).
We provided a YouTube video of a skunk in action below.
The Nat Geo article asserts that the skunk spray causes no real damage to its victims, but it sure makes them uncomfortable. It can linger for many days and defy attempts to remove it. As a defensive technique, the spray is very effective. Predators typically give skunks a wide berth unless little other food is available.
Most of us think we have nothing to fear from a skunk. Just give it a wide berth and leave it alone. And for the most part that is true. However, an 84-year-old man, a resident of Vermont, will tell you a harrowing tale about his run-in with a rabid skunk last July while walking down the street in broad daylight.
From an article in the Vermont Standard with the headline “ELDERLY MAN RECOVERING FROM RABID SKUNK ATTACK.” Walking along a quiet road, an 84-year-old man noticed a skunk following close behind; when he lost his footing, the skunk attacked, biting him repeatedly on the ankles. One week later, a five-month-old child was bitten on the face by a rabid skunk at a Little Falls, Minnesota, day-care facility. “He got bit a number of times,” the county sheriff told the news media. “It was an unusually large skunk, almost the size of, probably, a cocker spaniel.” The following week, a woman visiting a Six Flags amusement park in Massachusetts was bitten by a rabid skunk.
“We do see about a five-year cycle in the number of rabid skunks reported nationally,” says Jesse Blanton, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies branch. “The last peak was around 2009, 2010, so we may be just beginning to see cases fluctuating upward.”
Rabies in skunks means only one thing: lots of skunks. “Skunk populations rise until the point where some disease comes in, rabies or distemper or perhaps something else,” says Philip Myers, a biologist at the University of Michigan.
“When the populations are really dense, the disease is transmitted quickly from animal to animal, and the population is knocked back,” Myers adds. “When it’s knocked back far enough, transmission stops, the disease disappears for a while, and the population builds back up. That cycle just repeats.” See source
There are numerous sites with helpful hints about treating a skunk problem. Here is a link to one we found from The Humane Society.
And it should be obvious you don't want to chase a skunk. If you see one, run the opposite way. Remember too, the skunk is one of four wild animals (including the fox, raccoon, and bat) considered to be primary carriers of the rabies virus and is, therefore, classified as a rabies vector species. Skunks have also been known to carry leptospirosis.
If you are having a skunk problem we suggest you call an exterminator. Don't try to trap them yourself. Put chicken wire around any open space where they could make a nest such as under your steps or deck. We provided some phone numbers to county health departments and the state health department. You can also contact your town clerk. As mentioned large numbers of skunks can result in a breeding ground for the rabies virus.
Burlington County Health Department 609-265-5548
Camden County Health Department 856-968-2320
Gloucester County Health Department 856-218-4101
NJ Department of Health 609-826-5964
We like to thank everyone who shared their skunk stories with us. Your contribution was very helpful in compling this article. Here are just a few of the comments we received.
- Riverview Heights Keith writes, “My dog was sprayed in his face three weeks ago. We see several skunks a night. These horrendous creatures are coming out of the Pedrick’s Fuel Company property, on Market and Powell Streets at the railroad. My poor dog had to endure a multitude of baths of varying types. He was just roaming in his own back yard when he got attack. We had to hire a professional trapping company. In the last 10 days the have trapped and removed a total of five skunks. They claim that it is extremely unusual to have that many in one area of an urban location. Why is Pedrick’s not liable for maintaining and keeping their property clean of trash, skunks and other rodents?
- “It seems to me that the skunks began to arrive in our neighborhoods when they started the construction work on the Brooklawn Bridge and elsewhere on nearby Route 42,” said Doran. “The white skunks are males. My dog got sprayed last November. It is not the fault of the wildlife, it is the fault of mankind.”
- Marylou writes, “I live on George Street and about three weeks ago my dog had an unpleasant encounter with the skunk. What a mess. ”
- Tom from Riverview Heights, "There was one in the alleyway between mine and my neighbors house the other night and it seems like every other night you smell the skunks spray around 9 - 9:30."
- Marissa says, “I live on Thompson Ave and my dog was actually sprayed last year in my front yard. Now that I am familiar with the up close and personal smell of a skunk I can tell you that at least twice a week I can walk outside and smell fresh skunk in our neighborhood. In the neighborhood we have also spotted a baby skunk twice. In all of my years here, last summer was the first time I found them to be an issue and it most definitely seems worse this year.”
- “I live on 800 block market. I have a skunk in the yard from time to time. He wants to take up residence under my back steps. We have since covered them, but he still wanders in the yard,” said Denise
- "One old Piney treatment for victims of skunk spray was to bathe in a barrel of Tomato Juice and burn or bury their clothing. Of course this was back when South Jersey was covered with tomato fields and open burning was allowed. The remedy for the two-legged skunk is locked in an honest ballot box," said John Branin
- Barnard Avenue Mike said, "Too much sensitivity for critters and not nearly enough for human beings..And our quality of life issues...A skunk is just , after all , a skunk. About 2 weeks ago we had a skunk in our side yard (we did not see it, we smelled it). It must have sprayed something near our house because we had an awful time trying to air out the house. It happened 2 nights in a row around 9:30."
- "We also live in the 800 block of Market and have smelled skunk often this summer. My husband saw a white skunk heading north on the tracks at Powell St.," said Judith
- A Bellmawr residents states, “We also had a dog Molly who was the victim of a skunk a few years ago. We let her out in the backyard about 5:30 in the morning, still dark, and a skunk squirted her right in the eyes as soon as she went outside. She never even saw the skunk so it was unprovoked. She never knew what hit her.We didn’t have any tomato juice, but my wife put cans of tomatoes in a bathtub to try to clean her off. We scrubbed like crazy but couldn’t get rid of the smell.
We made the mistake of telling the first groomer that we called that she was sprayed by a skunk and they hung up! We got an appointment with another groomer and just brought her there without saying anything. They completely got rid of the smell.
Meanwhile our house smelled strongly like skunk from one end to the other for at least a week—especially the basement which was closer to spray level.
I thought I could detect it in my clothes just from walking in the backyard.
As bad as a skunk smells when you are driving around, it is exponentially worse in your own yard and house.
NJ Department of Health 609-826-5964
Watch video HOW SKUNKS SPRAY...also check out the articles below the video, interesting reading on the subject