Skunks (also called polecats in America) are mammals known for their ability to spray a liquid with a strong odor. Different species of skunk vary in appearance from black-and-white to brown or cream colored, but all have warning coloration.
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- In settled areas, skunks seek garbage left by humans. Less often, skunks may be found acting as scavengers, eating bird and rodent carcasses left by cats or other animals. Pet owners, particularly those of cats, may experience a skunk finding its way into a garage or basement where pet food is kept. Skunks commonly dig holes in lawns in search of grubs and worms.
- The odor of a skunk is strong enough to ward off bears and other potential attackers and can be difficult to remove from clothing.
- Skunks are common in suburban areas. Frequent encounters with dogs and other domestic animals, and the release of the odor when a skunk is run over, have led to many myths about the removal of skunk odor. Due to the chemical composition of the spray, most of these household remedies are ineffective, except for remedies able to break down thiols.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recorded 1,494 cases of rabies in skunks in the United States for the year 2006 — about 21.5% of reported cases in all species.
- Conscious of its power, it roams about the open plain, and fears neither dog nor man. If a dog is urged to the attack, its courage is instantly checked by a few drops of the fetid oil, which can bring on violent sickness, running at the nose and may even cause temporary blindness.