Higher-than-average rainfall over the summer may result in a fall that really stinks this year.
“Our wildlife surveys indicate that skunk counts are up,” said Derrick Wolter, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist for Bell and Coryell counties. “When you add more rainfall, more plants and forage are available. Skunks are nocturnal and move around mostly at night. They are foragers and feed on the ground.”
Many people in the Killeen area report seeing skunks in residential areas. Residents can help prevent skunks coming into their yards by not putting out things they will eat.
“People put food out for cats and dogs and in their bird feeders. Skunks are scavengers and the available food will draw them to your backyard,” said Dr. Robert Jacobs at the Town and Country Veterinary Medical Center in Killeen. “If you do smell the scent of skunk, get your pets indoors until the stench dissipates. Skunks can use their anal scent glands to shoot this chemical up to 10 feet.”
If pets get sprayed in the face by a skunk, pet owners should wash their eyes out with warm water. If the pets’ eyes remain red and are squinting, a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary. The biggest concern is the potential for rabies, Jacobs said.
“Fox, raccoon and skunks can all carry distemper and rabies, which is why it is vital that a pet’s vaccinations be up to date. Rarely do we see a dog get bitten by a skunk. The smell usually keeps the dog away.”
If a pet is bitten by a skunk, owners are required by law to notify their veterinarian immediately. The pet must be quarantined and observed for a minimum of 10 days for any signs of rabies, which is highly contagious to people and other animals.
“Never mess with any wild animal,” Wolter said. “Do not taunt them or tease them. Respect them. If they are not scared of you, something is wrong and you should beware.”
There are many myths about getting rid of a skunk’s odor, including using tomato juice, vinegar and bleach. Due to the chemical composition of the spray, most of these household remedies are ineffective. “Getting sprayed by a skunk really won’t hurt you. It’s just a stinky annoyance,” Wolter said. “For at least a few days, you won’t have many friends and not many dates.”