What’s With All the Dead Skunks on Rockford Streets?
About a month ago, I began frequently seeing skunks wandering around some yards in my neighborhood. Now, I'm seeing more--many of them after an automobile encounter.
And, it's not just in my neighborhood. Traveling around the Rockford area, I've seen no less than a dozen skunks lying dead in the street. On one half-mile stretch of Guilford Road, there were four of them.
When you get up at the time that I do, you want to make sure you're not having some sort of sleep-deprivation-induced hallucination, so I've asked around. It would appear that I'm not the only one who's noticed all these little guys with the stripe on their backs.
So, I decided to look into the phenomenon. A quick trip to blog.nature.org and I got an answer as to why we're seeing so many skunks:
Their parents are kicking them out, and they're not sure of what exactly they're supposed to do now.
Author Matt Miller explains:
Striped skunks give birth to a litter of young, called kits, in the early spring. The kits are born naked, blind and helpless. The mother skunk goes out hunting and foraging and brings food back to the den until the skunks are two months old. Then they start joining her on forays, learning to dig insects and perhaps locate your garbage.
Being solitary, it is soon time for the young skunks to disperse. Depending on where you live, that’s right about now. So there are lots of young, relatively inexperienced skunks roaming around.
Matt points out that areas like ours are full of "potential den sites, with spaces under sheds, decks and homes providing ideal skunk condos."
This seeming skunk utopia comes with risks. The first is dogs. While coyotes, badgers and other predators avoid skunks, dogs have not gotten the memo. They attack skunks with abandon, leaving you to douse them with tomato juice or other concoctions that won’t work. (Interestingly, one suburban predator that successfully targets skunks is the great-horned owl. One notable owl nest contained nearly 60 skunks!).
Skunks have outstanding senses of smell and hearing, but their eyesight---not so much. They're pretty much out of luck when it comes to a car or truck heading down the street at 40 miles per hour.
The only other time when you'll potentially see (and smell) skunks more than you do now is in February. That's when mating season kicks in.