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Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

Can a Skunk Aim Its Spray?

Can a Skunk Aim Its Spray?

Yes — a skunk can accurately aim and spray its stinging liquid at an enemy as far as 15 feet away. The smelly liquid, known as mercaptan, is stored in two scent glands under the skunk’s tail. When an enemy threatens, the skunk lowers its head, arches its back, and thumps its fore paws on the ground.

If the skunk’s warning is not heeded, it turns its back to the enemy, raises its black-and-white tail, and sprays its odorous liquid at the tormentor’s face. Only a little liquid is discharged, but it is so powerful, it can be smelled a mile away. A skunk can spray up to eight times and then its glands need a couple of days to make more oil.

Normally, a skunk will aim for the eyes of whatever animal is threatening it, but if the threat is not within sight, a skunk will instead spray a cloud of musk that the pursuing animal will have to run through.

Despite this potent defense, the skunk isn’t without predators. Occasionally a wolf, fox, or bobcat will kill a skunk, but the main danger is from birds of prey. Hawks, falcons, and owls have excellent vision and hunt mainly by sight.

One thing they don’t have is a good sense of smell. Lacking this, they have never learned to fear skunks. The Great Horned Owl, in particular, makes the skunk a mainstay of its diet, and is the single greatest predator of skunks.

Content for this question contributed by Melinda Lindsay, resident of Glidden, Carroll County, Iowa, USA