Why Skunks Spray and How to Avoid It

Skunk spray, also known as N-butyl mercaptan, is a vile-smelling liquid that is sprayed from the animal as a defense mechanism. This is an action that the animal does have some control over — it can choose whether or not it wishes to spray, fight, or run away from conflict — and the younger skunks, particularly young males, tend to be a little more spray-happy than their adult counterparts. The latter know (wisely) to use it sparingly, and only when it is absolutely necessary. 

Why skunks spray

Skunks spray as an act of defense. If they feel as if they are being threatened or could come under attack, they will spray a victim to urge it to stay away. Skunks do not usually use their spray on another skunk, but will happily use it on other animals, including people, cats, dogs, horses, and plenty of others. 

Where does skunk spray come from? 

The skunk has two glands around its anus, and these glands are what stores the spray and allows the animal to project it out into a victim. This does mean that the skunk needs to turn around and face the opposite direction from its opponent, of course. 

What does skunk spray do? 

Although not usually overly dangerous, skunk spray is meant to virtually deactivate an opponent. The smell is bad enough to make you feel nauseous and perhaps even vomit, and when sprayed in the eyes, can even cause temporary blindness and then, in turn, blind panic. An animal that has been temporarily blinded during conflict will, of course, be more vulnerable than it already was. 

Skunk spray, when sprayed into the mouth or nose, can cause problems with the respiratory system, usually invoked by inflammation and irritation. When the skunk spray hits the skin, it can also have a temporary burning effect, which is obviously rather worrying to the victim. 

All of these things are not designed to kill you or a threatening opponent; they are meant to deactivate them, giving the skunk an opportunity to them run away. It'll save its fighting skills for when it absolutely needs them, and also for hunting prey. 

How can you get rid of the smell of skunk spray? 

To start with, water actually makes skunk spray worse because it seems to reactivate certain compounds within it. Simply hopping into the shower will not do the job here. 

Tomato juice doesn't work. You'll just be left smelling like a skunk sprayed you AND you bathed in tomato juice. 

Lemon and other citrus fruits/juices don't work, either. You'll just be left smelling like a skunk sprayed you AND you bathed in OJ minus the vodka. 

There are three ingredients that you'll need to effectively get rid of the smell of skunk spray, and you will need to use them carefully — dish soap/liquid soap, 3% hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda. 

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