Skunks are absolutely fascinating critters. Once thought to be in the Mustelidae family that consists of badgers, weasels and others, skunks are actually close kin with stink badgers and together they make up the taxonomic family Mephitidae. Everything about skunks reflects the evolutionary dance between form and function. Consider their white stripes. These markings act as arrows generously alerting predators as to where their spray will be shooting from and that they have it in the first place, which gives everyone the first alert. Next, if there is time, skunks do a little dance to warn off predators. If there isn’t enough time, say because a dog is relentless or that they have been ambushed at night by a nocturnal predator, skunks can actually take aim with the nipple in their anal gland and spray right into their attacker’s eyes.
Given their ability to communicate power prior to deploying their stinky mechanism, skunks are notoriously confident and curious, which means we have to be careful and cautious rehabilitators when working with them. Can you weigh them without being sprayed? Often not. Even the littlest baby skunks can spray before their eyes open. But, we try and take the opportunity to weigh them after they have sprayed because it takes a few days to “recharge”. Then they get to hang out in their enclosure, tail up and curious if we approach, letting us know just what their intentions may be if we get too close.