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Wildlife Center of Virginia: Skunks are on the move; it’s mating season

Crystal Graham
skunks in den
(© gnagel – stock.adobe.com)

If you or your pets have had a close encounter with a skunk this month, you are not alone. It’s mating season which means skunks are traveling outside of their normal territories.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia said a male skunk may travel several miles in one night searching for females to mate with – and often more than one in a single night.

Mating season typically runs through mid-March.

Tips for dealing with skunks

  • Slow down while driving and watch out for skunks crossing roads, especially at night and during twilight hours. Food litter left behind by humans near roadways is an easy meal for a skunk, but can often result in the animal being hit by a vehicle.
  • Prepare your outdoor space to safely deter mother skunks from denning near your home. Baby skunks spend the first eight weeks of their lives in the safety of an underground burrow. Check for existing or possible den sites beneath porches, crawlspaces and other residential structures. The openings to skunk dens are usually about four to six inches wide and smell faintly like skunk. In general, skunks are not difficult to deter, and even mild harassment can make them leave the area, though it’s important to first identify if the skunk is a mother with babies.
  • Learn to recognize defensive behavior in skunks in the event of an unplanned encounter. Skunks have poor eyesight and can be approached slowly, though it’s always important to watch for signs of agitation. Before spraying, an agitated skunk will first stamp its feet, turn around (with backend toward the target), raise its tail, and look over its shoulder and hiss. If the perceived threat does not leave, a skunk can spray up to five or six times and reach targets that are 15 feet away.
  • Use extreme caution when interacting with skunks, especially when close contact is necessary. In Virginia, skunks are a species considered to be at high risk for rabies and roundworm.

Mating season for skunks typically runs through mid-March. Baby skunks (called kits) are usually born in May or June.

For more information on skunks, visit wildlifecenter.org/skunks-neighbors

 

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.