Nature

Ooooh, That Smell… Must Be Skunk Mating Season

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Spring is approaching in the Texas Hill Country, and the minds and hearts of young skunks turn to thoughts of love – which, unfortunately, can have deadly consequences for the amorous varmints. The month of February, which ironically holds Valentine’s Day, kicks off the skunk breeding season.

Ooooh, That Smell... Must Be Skunk Mating Season

Photo: Lance Iversen, The Chronicle

These shy, cat-sized animals hit the road. In their nocturnal quests to find mates, males often venture onto highways and rarely make it across alive. Instead of the humorous antics of famous cartoon skunk Pepé le Pew, the results are often closer to the Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Ooooh, That Smell... Must Be Skunk Mating Season

Image: nsrl.ttu.edu

“We see more numbers of roadkill skunks in February and March than other times of the year,” Robert Dowler, a biologist with Angelo State University, told Texas Parks & Wildlife. “Preliminary data suggests that roadkill rates of skunks may double in parts of Texas during mating season.”

Ooooh, That Smell... Must Be Skunk Mating Season

Photo: huffingtonpost.com

February through March is mating season for striped, hog-nosed, and hooded skunks, and that translates into “skunk smell” all over the Hill Country.

The stench occurs when males try to court females who may not be “in the mood.” During mating season, females produce an even greater stench that wards off suitors – and can spray a noxious sulfurous musk 15 feet when they’re not in the mood.

In early May, the young are born, with average litters consisting of five offspring. Some females have two litters a year, but one litter per year is more common. The nursery is a cavity under a rock, a burrow, or a thicket of cactus or other protective vegetation. Usually the mother builds a nest of dried grasses and weed stems for the blind, helpless young. Baby skunks must remain hidden in their nest until they can see and are strong enough to follow their mother.

Ooooh, That Smell... Must Be Skunk Mating Season

Image: 247wildlife.com

So, as nature runs its course over the next few months, be prepared to wear a gas mask when you’re driving down the road. Or at least keep a can of Febreze in your car. For a DIY recipe to rid your car of the stench, visit www.247wildlife.com.

References:

Texas Parks & Wildlife

Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine