In this post, we talk about what you should do if you see a skunk.
No one wants to get sprayed by a skunk! Continue reading for tips on how to prevent getting sprayed by a skunk.
Skunks can be found in every state in the country and have become especially common in the Chicagoland area, where they have been invading the suburbs in record numbers.
They are an adaptable animal that can tolerate living close to humans. Our suburban landscapes with trees, shrubbery, landscaping, and gardens have proven to be very good environments for them to live and forage in.
The skunks only natural predator, the great horned owl, has seen its numbers decreasing in some parts of the Chicagoland area. They are somewhat less tolerant of people than skunks and prefer areas with denser areas of large mature trees.
These factors combined with several mild winters in a row have helped their numbers increase across Chicagoland.
Skunks have always been common in Illinois but now more than ever, you just might come face to face with one.
This can be especially true at certain times of the day or the year. In February and March, they are likely to be out searching for mates.
During the summer when us humans are spending lots of time outdoors, skunks are often encountered at dusk as they had out for a night of foraging.
What to do if you see a skunk
- Stop moving or slow down.
- Try not to startle the skunk.
- Avoid making noise or sudden movements.
- Don’t do anything to make them feel cornered or threatened.
- Be wary for warning signs from skunk: stamping front feet, a raised tail, hissing.
- Back away slowly and quietly.
A skunk does not actually want to spray you if it doesn’t have to. Spraying by a skunk is a last resort when it feels threatened or cornered.
Related: Skunk Spray FAQ
Skunks are actually docile animals and not aggressive or territorial. They are small and they can’t fight. They only have one defense: their stinky spray.
They don’t actually want to have a confrontation with you or any other animal. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone.
Signs a skunk is threatened
- Shooting their tail up straight into the air
- Rear up on their back legs
- Stamping their front feet
- A short forward charge before stopping
- Turning their rear end towards you
- Spotted skunks will do a handstand
When a skunk is threatened, it will display warning behaviors before they spray.
Take notice if you see these signs! The skunk is giving you one last chance to get away from them.
Back up slowly, quietly and unthreateningly. Move away in the opposite direction!
Many predators who might otherwise be interested in eating a small skunk sized animal immediately know to stay away.
Unfortunately, as many dog owners know, dogs seem to ignore all these telltale skunk behaviors and will often continue to be aggressive to skunks. This never turns out good for the dog!
A Skunk Encounter
Skunks are nocturnal animals, meaning they are active after dusk and at night.
You will rarely encounter a skunk during the day. It would rather be sleeping happily away in its den while the sun is out.
This is why almost all skunk encounters happen at night or as the sun is going down. You need to be more cautious for skunks during the night.
Often though you will actually smell them before you see them, which gives you the warning to be careful.
It IS possible to encounter a skunk and not get sprayed. It happens to people all the time, this author included.
Freeze, stay calm, quiet, and back away. The skunk doesn’t really want to get in a fight with you.
More Skunk Resources
Being Skunk Savvy: How to Avoid Getting Sprayed – The Outbound
What to do when you see a skunk – Illiana Wildlife
What to do about skunks – Humane Society
How to avoid skunks – Ruff Ideas