February 15, 2019

Valentine's Day may have passed, but mating season is just starting for a number of wildlife species ... including skunks!

In February and March, Striped Skunks become more active as they travel in search of a mate. This means they are crossing roads more often and, unfortunately, are more likely to get hit by cars. We encourage everyone to be especially alert when driving at night during this time of year.

When skunks aren't out searching for a mate, females are preparing dens for their future families. In February and March, our front-desk staff sees an uptick in calls about wildlife (particularly skunks and fox) denning under structures, like houses, barns, and sheds.

Skunk young are typically born in May and June. If you have a skunk neighbor who has selected a den that's a little too close for comfort, now is the time to help the skunk vacate, since moving a mother skunk and her babies is more complicated.

If you're unable to safely share your space with your new skunk neighbor, we've laid out ways you can deter skunks using visual, auditory, and scent deterrents. Skunks are relatively sensitive creatures, and usually even mild harassment techniques are enough to encourage a skunk to move on.
During unexpected encounters with skunks, people are often most concerned with getting sprayed - and rightfully so! While skunks would prefer to avoid conflict with larger predators, they will defend themselves if they feel trapped or pursued.

A Striped Skunk's primary defense is an oily spray that can be discharged up to 15 feet. One chemical in this "skunk musk" is a mercaptan - a similar odorant is added to natural gas to alert us to potential leaks.

Before spraying, an agitated skunk will give plenty of warning by stomping its feet, hissing, and turning its rear (with tail raised) toward the threat.

Not everyone is lucky enough to catch the warning signs and avoid the malodorous mist. Just this week, two Wildlife Center staff members (Maggie and Dr. Ernesto) were sprayed by skunk patients  - and everyone who visits the Center knows it!

Maggie reports that she has cups of baking soda around her car to help absorb some of the smell from her unfortunate encounter. Below you can see our recommended recipe for de-skunking.

Remember that trapping and relocating wildlife is not only illegal it's ineffective and inhumane. Finding ways to coexist with our wild neighbors (even the stinky ones!) is the best course of action.

In this section, our staff members share things with you that are special to them. It might be books they're reading, podcasts they're following, favorite hiking trails, or bird watching recommendations ... or it might be a personal project or a patient that's snagged a staff member's attention. Check in to see what our people are doing during their down time!
This week, we hear from: wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey Pleasants

"Some of you may know that New York Fashion Week just ended.  While I may not be the most fashionable person I know, my favorite part of my wardrobe is without a doubt my earring collection.  Specifically, all of my animal earrings!

"You won’t find me wearing too much jewelry on a daily basis, but you will always find me with a pair of earrings on.  They’re usually a pair of cats (check out these adorable handmade pair of my own cats, Smokey and Jax!) or owls, but my favorite pairs are my Jabebo wildlife earrings. 
"Jabebo earrings are great for several reasons.  First and foremost, they’re incredibly adorable.  They’re brightly colored and detailed, and in a quirky twist, pairs are often purposefully mismatched.  Secondly, they are handmade with recycled post-consumer products.  Each earring is made from cereal box cardboard! Lastly, they are all science and nature-based, inspired from different parts of the natural world.  Basically they combine my favorite things in a sustainable and cute product!  I’ve just learned they designed an adorable pair of Mourning Dove earrings last spring, and you can bet I will be adding those to my collection. :)

"While an enamel pin may not always be considered a piece of jewelry, this one deserves an honorable mention.  I recently received a birthday gift from my dear friend Amber – this enamel pin of a Bearded Vulture, also known by another (much cooler) name, the Lammergeier. Unlike the Black and Turkey Vultures we are used to seeing, the Bearded Vulture’s diet consists mainly of bones! After the other scavenging species have eaten their fill of a carcass, the Bearded Vulture collects the bones and drops them from hundreds of feet in the air, breaking them into shards it can swallow whole. How cool is that?! Thank you, Amber, for my lovely gift!"

Who wore it better?
In honor of New York Fashion Week coming to a close, we're looking at some of the best-dressed wildlife we have in Virginia - skunks! There are two species of skunk in Virginia Striped Skunks and Spotted Skunks. Both species get their names from their physical characteristics.

Stripped Skunks are what most people think of as a "typical" skunk - black fur with two bold stripes of white that stretch down their body and through their tail. These white stripes can vary in width depending on the individual, which means that some Striped Skunks may appear mostly black (if the stripes are thin) or mostly white (if the stripes are thick).


Striped Skunk. Photo: K. Theule/ USFWS

Spotted Skunks are much less frequently encountered, due to their secretive nature and declining populations. These skunks have broken white stripes along their back and sides, which resemble "spots". Spotted Skunks are a bit smaller and more agile than their striped cousins.

Eastern Spotted Skunk, showing off his dance moves!
Photo by Damon Lesmeister, Research Wildlife Biologist, USDA Forest Service.
In other black-and-white-wildlife news, Severus the Eastern Ratsnake made an appearance during filming for an episode of our upcoming TV series, Untamed. As you might have guessed, the episode is all about snakes!
Submit your favorite Critter Cam Moment screenshot and we might include it in the newsletter!
E-mail screenshots and descriptions to for a chance to be featured.
Smell ya later!
Donate Now
Copyright © 2019 Wildlife Center of Virginia, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list