Skunkus among us: Protect against smelly critters

  • Published
  • By Trudi Logan
  • 72nd Civil Engineer Directorate
In recent years, a large number of skunks have been removed from Tinker AFB.

"In fact, 53 were euthanized on base during the past year alone," said Tinker's Natural Resource Manager John Krupovage.

Fifteen skunks were removed from base housing, nine from the golf course, and 29 from other locations on base, including many from industrial areas. An additional 11 skunks were picked up from Tinker streets as road kill.

USDA Wildlife Services Biologist Clark Baker said, "Within the next two months, skunk activity will see an uptick due to onset of the breeding season. After a summer lull, skunk movement will spike again in the fall, when juvenile skunks leave their mother and disperse across the landscape."

Skunks are primarily nocturnal, so mid-day sightings are unusual; and they are generally solitary, except when mothers are raising their young, so it is common to see just one skunk at a time.

Although skunks are typically non-aggressive and try to avoid contact with humans, their unique defense mechanism can accurately spray a noxious-smelling chemical up to 15 feet.

Tinker Biologist Raymond Moody said the two specialized musk glands located on either side of the posterior make the skunk a confident critter that will stand its ground and spray rather than run away when faced with a threat.

While skunks are considered beneficial to farmers and gardeners because they feed on large numbers of agricultural and garden pests, such as mice, rats, moles, grasshoppers, beetles, grubs and crickets; they are, at times, considered a nuisance on Tinker AFB, said Mr. Krupovage.

Skunks can burrow under porches or buildings by entering foundation openings, and they can disturb garbage or refuse left outdoors. They can dig up lawns while foraging for insects.

"Like all warm-blooded mammals, skunks can spread the rabies virus, so skunks acting sick or aggressive should be given an extra wide berth and animal control officials should be contacted immediately," said Mr. Moody. And, of course, skunks are most problematic when they come in contact with a human or a pet and leave behind their lasting impression!

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prevent conflicts with skunks, both at home and near your work areas on base.

These include properly disposing of garbage, pet food and other food sources left out at night. If garbage cans must be left outside, use tight-fitting lids to keep the skunks out. Pick up all uneaten pet food.

"Chances are, if you are leaving food out for Fido, or feeding feral cats, you are likely feeding skunks in addition to violating AFI 32-7064 and base policies," said Mr. Moody.

"And don't forget about rodent control around the home," Mr. Moody says. "Skunks are often attracted to rodent feeding and nesting areas and will stay in the vicinity where they know they can get a tasty meal."

Other actions to discourage skunks from taking up residence is to eliminate convenient denning sites such as wood, debris and rock piles, elevated sheds, openings under concrete slabs and porches and access to crawl spaces under houses. Prevent skunks from denning under buildings by sealing off foundation openings keep areas clean to discourage the skunks from moving in.

By taking action to make your home and work areas less inviting, you can greatly reduce your chances of a skunk encounter.

Mr. Krupovage advises if you should come across a skunk at home, work, or on one of the base playgrounds or trails, just back up quietly and slowly, give the skunk its space and move on. For repeated skunk visits or encountering an aggressive skunk in base housing, contact Balfour Beatty at 732-3324. If the encounter occurs at your workplace, call 72nd Civil Engineering Customer Service at 734-3117.