If you rely on visuals alone, skunks (Mephitis mephitis) have a rather innocuous and unassuming appearance. The furry weasel relatives actually are even kind of cute. However, skunks have a reputation for spraying a foul and lingering odor -- one that's not always the easiest to eliminate. When a skunk sprays, it generally is a sign that he's feeling pretty frightened by someone or something.
Skunk Spraying Age
The ability to spray starts early on in skunks. The spray has an oily appearance, and comes out of scent glands below the animals' tails. Some very young skunks are able to do some very subtle spraying at merely weeks old, according to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan. However, skunks generally are old enough to have their totally realized spraying skills when they're in the ballpark of 3 months old, give or take a couple of weeks.
Reasons for Spraying
Whether you're dealing with a wee skunk or a fully mature 3-year-old, spraying in skunks isn't at all a random behavior. These typically meek creatures do not spray in attempts to disrupt others, as they tend to stay out of humans' ways whenever possible. Spraying usually means that a skunk is either very scared, startled by something or in pain and discomfort due to an injury.
Signs of Impending Spraying
Do not assume that a skunk won't spray just because you think it looks very young. Skunks usually make it obvious that they're about to give off the yucky spray, usually by hissing, growling, foot thumping and shrieking. If you're around this skunk, these behaviors probably are your cue to leave the vicinity immediately. If a skunk starts elevating its tail and looking directly at you, it's probably a little too late. You might just experience an uncomfortably close encounter with the unpleasant odor of skunk spray.
Sexual Maturity in Skunks
Skunks have the ability to spray well before they have the ability to reproduce. Female skunks general attain sexual maturity at approximately 335 days old, according to Animal Diversity Web of the University of Michigan. The average age of physical maturity is roughly the same in young male, approximately 10 months.
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