Do skunks run out of spray?

Skunks are an easily recognized forest creature that is known worldwide for their unique for of defense. They can spray a stinky oily musk on their aggressors at will. One question many folks have is: “How endless is that supply of oily stink? Exactly how many times can they spray before they run out…or do they?” To properly answer this question, we should look at the mechanics of their anal glands starting with how a skunk responds to eminent danger. If a skunk is confronted by you or any creature and it feels threatened for any reason, it has a pre-programmed series of motions it will go through that are designed to intimidate you and make you flee in terror. These moves include hissing, growling, barring of teeth, stamping, and tramping their feet. They will also dance on their hind legs, flash their tails about, and bend themselves in half in an attempt to glare at you while pointing their dreaded anal glands at you. Releasing their noxious spray all over you will be a last resort. If their massive show of bravado fails, then they will inundate you with oily sulphur like mixture that adheres to almost every surface it touches. Not only is the spray almost impossible to clean off, it is one of the most putrid odors ever created.

This smell lasts a long time, and it can be problematic if it gets in your in eyes or the soft tissues. There are numerous documented cases of both people and their animals needing medical attention after being sprayed in the eyes, mouth, or face. It can cause sensations ranging from intense burning to blindness. With a defense system this impressive, you might question why spraying is not the skunk’s first reaction to confrontation. Let us look at the biology behind that noxious spray called thiols. This spray is composed chains of carbon and hydrogen with sulfur thiols attached. These are of the same compounds found in garlic, ramps, and onions. The fluids a skunk sprays must be manufactured by the skunk through his anal glands, which in turn fill the sacks found under its tail. A “fully charged” skunk can produce enough spray to drench an average sized adversary around six times.

Once all the spray is exhausted, the skunk may have to wait ten days to replenish its supply. During that time, the skunk will tend to lay low as it now has as its only means of defense is its show of bravado. A skunk in that state of defenselessness might turn to drastic measures like biting you with its sharp teeth, or clawing you with its long razor-sharp claws. Skunks are not skillful as fighters, but they are agile and fast. Skunks really rely on their spray to save them from most dangerous situations. If they run out of spray, their feelings of defenseless will often force them to stay hidden in their dens until their supply is replenished.

Read the How to get rid of skunks page for helpful information and to learn more about Do skunks run out of spray?

Do skunks run out of spray?

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