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Can Young Skunks Spray?


7-13-17 baby skunk 169

When under dire stress, adult Striped Skunks will employ their two anal glands and anoint a perceived threat up to 16 feet away (with the wind’s help) with their potent musky spray of butyl mercaptan. (This same compound is used as an additive to natural gas (which is almost odorless) to enable its detection by smell when natural gas escapes or leaks from pipes.)

Often it is assumed that very young skunks do not have this capability, and for the first seven days of their life, they don’t. However, musk is present in a skunk’s anal glands at birth and can be emitted on day 8. The pictured skunk (and its three siblings) were rescued after their mother was killed by a car, and as you can see, thanks to a positive experience with the nurturing hands of its rescuer (Lou White), it is not interested in utilizing its defense mechanism to defend itself against an admiring naturalist. (Photo by Lou White)

Naturally Curious represents a passion for learning and teaching about natural history that I am fortunate enough to be able to pursue. If and when the spirit moves you to support my tiny contribution to your day, I would love for you to donate to a fund that was set up to support my recently-widowed daughter and her two-year-old. If you choose to contribute, you may go to Thank you so much.

5 responses

  1. Thanks Mary. My experience handling young skunks matches your facts. However, I am still very very cautious. I am sure I’ve handled skunks older than 8-days old without being sprayed. Perhaps (?) they aren’t aware of their ability or are just more tolerant than adults when in danger.

    July 28, 2017 at 7:23 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    Sweetpotato7: that’s an awesome expression: “aren’t aware of their ability” !!!! Such a cute little baby! Mary: the Sadie and Otis fund is doing so well….the wonderful things that people have written must be so heartwarming for you and Sadie. Lots of loving fellow humans…❤️❤️❤️

    July 28, 2017 at 8:44 am

  3. Ruth Gross

    Interesting – thanks! Ruth

    Sent from my iPad


    July 28, 2017 at 11:25 am

  4. connie

    Mary, what is your physical address? some of us prefer not to use electronics to transfer money! A Luddite

    July 28, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    • Hi Connie,
      How kind of you to support Sadie in this way. Checks can be made out to “The Otis Brown Fund” (the “The” is important to include). Mail the check to: The Otis Brown Fund c/o Eastern Bank 441 Main St. Melrose, MA 02176. Many, many heartfelt thanks.

      July 29, 2017 at 10:05 am

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