Texas skunks merit caution
Editor’s note: There’s been an apparent increase in “skunk order” reported by neighbors in the Dripping Springs areas surrounding Barton Creek in the Fitzhugh and Ranch Road 12 area. While most people have sense enough to leave a skunk alone because of the odor, there is also the secondary concerns of rabies. San Marcos Daily Record Columnist Jerry Hall, gives us the 411 on these potentially troublesome visitors.
I had a new visitor to my place one recent evening. Right at about sundown, a skunk showed up. I looked down from my back deck and tried to be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible.
I did not want to annoy this animal in any way and was already calculating how bad my abode would smell if it let loose a spray. Luckily, there was no spray, the skunk passed on and all ended well.
We have five varieties of skunks in Texas, more than any other state. These include common striped,
the kind I saw, hog-nosed, hooded and two kinds of spotted skunks. The hooded species is found in the Big Bend. The spotted type looks a lot like a squirrel and is not common in our area.
All skunks have the ability to release either a general cloud of smelly gas or a direct squirt of smelly liquid up to 15 feet. These ejaculations contain (E )-2-butene-1-thiol and 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, chemicals that smells quite terrible. Even skunks don’t like the pungent, gag-inducing odor.
I am told striped and hooded skunks sometimes stomp their feet before spraying, but it’s something I wouldn’t want to put the test.
Unfortunately, aside from the smell, skunks are a primary carrier of rabies. While scientists have almost eliminated rabies in coyotes and foxes by dropping oral vaccines, skunks still remain carriers. In 2014, over half of the 1,132 positive cases of rabies in Texas came from skunks.
So give this crafty critter lots of leeway, especially if it starts stomping its feet.