The Buzz

Love is in the air? It's just skunk mating season

A skunk walking in the grass.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

Love is always in the air, but at this time of the year the love in the air may smell a lot like skunk.

That's because we are right in the midst of mating season for striped skunks, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. And with mating season comes increased activity as male skunks search for female mates. That flurry of activity means we — and our pets — may have more encounters with skunks than usual, which can result in them releasing their stinky stench.

Skunk mating season begins in February and continues until the end of March. Female skunks usually only have one litter each year, but male skunks can reproduce with more than one female during the breeding season, according to the University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web. In some cases, skunks may mate again later in the year if the first litter is lost to predators or for other reasons.

The gestation period for skunks is between 62 and 66 days, so we can expect a skunk baby boom sometime in May or early June, according to Wildlife Illinois. Each litter has between four and eight babies, called kits or kittens. The kits are born furless and helpless. They develop fur after about two weeks and can open their eyes at about 3 1/2 weeks old. 

RELATED: THE STINK ON SKUNKS

The babies are weaned after six or seven weeks, at which time they start to take trips out of their dens with their mothers, according to the Animal Diversity Web. The young male skunks become fully independent from their mothers in late summer, while the females will stay with their mothers until the following spring. 

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a skunk's stinky spray during mating season or at any other time of year, skip the tomato juice and instead make a solution of 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap, Wildlife Illinois advises. Do not add water.

This odor-removal solution can be used on skin, pet fur and clothes, but take care not to use it near you or your pet's eyes. In addition, because it contains peroxide, it may discolor clothing and other fabrics and lighten your pet's fur. 

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