What Does it Mean When You Smell Skunk at Night?
Have you ever been sprayed by a skunk? Hopefully not.
I haven’t, but my old dog Bluto got into it with a skunk one evening, and it didn’t end up too well for him.
After that incident, we learned (the hard way) that skunks are much more likely to spray at night.
Skunks are nocturnal creatures, indicating that they sleep during the day but are awake during the night.
Humans can smell the spray of a skunk from up to 3.5 miles away, meaning that smelling one at night implies that the skunk is closeby.
The strength of the scent will significantly impact just how closeby the skunk is. Usually, the stronger the smell, the more likely it is that the skunk is near.
In short, if you smell a skunk at night, it means that there is a skunk nearby who has just released its “pleasant” scent – and if that’s the case – keep reading to find out more!
Why You May Smell Skunk at Night
Let’s be clear here.
The odor from a skunk doesn’t come from its skin or fur. Instead, the unpleasant scent comes from the rear scent glands of the skunk.
These glands contain a mixture of sulfur-like chemicals that have an extremely offensive odor.
Skunks use this mixture to ward off any potential predators or threats.
The spray can severely harm any creature that comes in contact with the skunk if the mixture reaches the eyes or any open wound.
Since skunks are nocturnal and awake during the night, they are MUCH more likely to spray at night.
A study from Evolution indicated that animals who spray as a defense mechanism are likely to spray at night due to a higher risk of coming in contact with close range predators.
The goal of the research was to identify just how animal defense systems have evolved over time.
For an animal like a skunk, this explains a whole lot.
Skunks Avoid Predators By Being Asleep During The Day
Since skunks are awake during the night, they don’t have to deal with the risk of being captured by flying birds such as hawks, eagles or turkey vultures – (and there’s a bunch more predators that eat skunks!)
Generally, skunks try to steer clear of contact with any other animals; they are small animals who can get picked up by prey very easily due to their small size.
Regardless, skunks are awake at night and spraying away, especially during the mid-winter to Fall months during mating season when the creatures are even more active.
If you’re smelling a skunk at night, it likely means that there is one closeby who has recently sprayed in defense.
If there is a downwind draft, humans can smell a skunk from up to 3.5 miles away.
The stronger the smell, the closer the skunk is.
If you possibly are smelling skunks, you may have a skunk problem! Got a skunk problem? Contact our nationwide network of pest and wildlife control professionals.
We’ll connect you with a local exterminator or wildlife pro in your local area in seconds.
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If You Smell a Skunk, It Might be in Danger
Skunks prefer not to spray other creatures, as it’s their only form of defense against predators.
To make matters worse for the skunk, the animal will need to wait to restore his spray if he depletes it.
The skunk scent gland only holds a finite amount of the sulfur-like mixture and can take up to 10 days to regenerate and get back to full capacity.
So you may be able to see just why skunks actually prefer NOT to spray, so if you’re smelling skunk – there’s definitely a few reasons as to why!
After checking out that article – the reality is – the spray is their only defense mechanism.
Their claws are long and sharp, but they use them for digging, not for defense.
The teeth of a skunk are small and wouldn’t severely injure any larger predator.
The only thing they have is their spray.
What to Do if You See a Skunk at Night
If you see skunks around your property at any time of day, but ESPECIALLY at night, there are a few things you need to be aware of:
- Be aware of signals that a skunk is about to spray.
- Educate your family on skunk warning signals.
- Keep pets locked indoors during the evening of the Fall months.
- Properly secure crevices underneath sheds and houses
If you own a home or live on a property where there’s a high possibility of coming into contact with a skunk, these steps are VERY important to get down.
They’re simple steps and will help you avoid the horrible occurrence of every single thing you own smelling like skunk spray.
And if you do have an abundance of skunks lately on your property, make sure to check out our article about the scents to use to keep skunks away!
1. “Be aware of signals that a skunk is about to spray.”
This is the big one. Since skunks are generally active in the night, their eyes don’t get great exposure to light. Thus, skunks aren’t really able to see all that well.
While hiking or just walking around in your backyard, you may accidentally stumble upon a skunk.
More than likely, that skunk didn’t see you before and will be extremely startled and agitated once it notices you.
In case that happens, you need to slowly back away from the skunk and be cautious if it’s about to spray.
Generally, skunks will stamp their feet aggressively and put their tail up over their back in an arching motion.
If you see a skunk do this, that means it’s spray time.
2. “Educate your family on skunk warning signals.”
Make extra sure that your family is aware of the warning signals for skunk spray too. If the feet are moving and the tail is up, walk away from the skunk ASAP.
Skunk spray is generally directed towards the eyes of whatever target the skunk has in its sights.
If the spray does come in contact with the eyes, it can cause severe irritation and even temporary blindness for both humans and pets.
3. “Keep pets locked indoors during the evening of Fall months.”
Breeding season for skunks comes briefly in February and for a bit longer during the Fall months.
Since I live in a rural area of NY, I don’t worry about my animals wandering off in the winter very much due to the probability of snow being on the ground.
And remember, skunks are nocturnal and active at NIGHT.
This is why we want to lock our animals in during the evenings. If you live in an area that has snow during the first breeding season (February), then focus in on keeping your pets inside during the Fall.
4. “Properly secure crevices underneath sheds and houses.”
I put this step as last, but it might be the most critical step. If you have gaps underneath your home, shed or outbuilding skunks can easily make that their own little paradise.
That’s not all bad, but if the skunk gets startled and decides to spray under your house or building – that’s going to make your property stink.
Do you need a little more help than what these tips provide? Call our nationwide network of pest and wildlife control professionals. We’ll connect you with a local professional in your area, in seconds. If you do need an exterminator to help pest-proof your home, working with our partner network helps support pestpointers.com. Thank you tons!
Why You Smell Skunk in Your House & How to Fix it
This next section is an extension of tip 4.
Skunks live in dens that are usually made out of nature. This can be something like a hollow log or brush pile.
While that is their home in nature, skunks will take home in another area if they get the opportunity.
Skunks love to take shelter in openings under porches, sheds, spaces between garages and underneath houses.
Virtually any place that has an opening with potential walls and a roof, a skunk will gladly seek out shelter in it.
If a skunk is living under your property close to you, your family or pets will be MUCH more likely to end up startling the skunk in some way, shape or form.
This, in turn, will most likely lead to someone getting sprayed.
So, in order to make sure that skunks DON’T take up shelter underneath your property, you need to make sure of a few things – check out our article on the best repellents and things you can do to get rid of skunks!
Or there’s some things you can do right now!
Seal Up Gaps
There are several ways you can go about putting up the barrier.
The easiest is to measure the length of the space you need to fill and buy a garden fence online that you can place into the ground.
If you want to go that route, I recommend this garden fence from Decorative Garden Fence.
It’s 7ft tall and should be a good height to fill any gaps.
If you have a good drill (check out the article about DIY drills that I linked too), you’ll want to use some good screening panel to keep the skunks from taking shelter underneath your property.
In my opinion, putting screening panel up underneath your deck will look the best AND be the most effective – this will take a visit to your local hardware store to find a custom fit for your space.
Measure Before You Go
Before going into any of those stores, make sure you do the following things:
- Measure the length, width, and height of the gap between your deck
- Write down these measurements and save them
If you go to ANY lumber or home goods store and ask them to cut you out a piece of material, the first thing they’re going to do is ask you how much you need.
If you give the professionals the measurements of your project, they’ll be able to get you exactly what you need and probably save you some good money doing it as well.
Really, purchasing decorative screening panel isn’t insanely expensive. It will be able to get the job done and keep skunks (along with any other critters) away from going underneath your deck.
Here’s the reason why I prefer putting up the screening panel instead of the garden fence.
Just about every other decorative garden fence has holes in it that some animals will still be able to fit through – regardless if you purchased the one I suggested or not.
For keeping skunks out, garden fences will do just fine. However smaller animals, such as squirrels and chipmunks, will easily be able to make their way through some part of the garden fence since it isn’t a consistent design all the way .around.
With the decorative screening panel, the design is consistent all the way around.
There are little, tiny squares that many animals will not be able to fit through and the panels are sturdy enough that they aren’t able to be chewed through.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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