What Makes Skunks So Stinky?

skunk stink

When you think of some of the smelliest animals, what comes to mind? No, we aren’t talking about your dog coming inside after playing in the mud or the dirty hamster cage you keep saying you’ll clean. We’re talking about skunks. 

Yes, skunks. Easily recognized by their notorious black coat with white stripes, as well as their signature stink, these pests are a nuisance to any homeowner when they come around. Have you ever wondered just how on earth these critters are so stinky? Let’s take a look. 

Scared Stink-Sprayers 

Skunks are native to North and South America and prefer to live in solitude. These recluses have naturally poor vision, but make up for it with their sharp hearing and keen sense of smell. Opportunistic by nature, these smelly, cat-sized creatures feed off of bugs, mice, berries, fruit, and even pet food. 

A skunk’s smell is a kind of defense mechanism that is triggered by the animal if it feels threatened or endangered. Skunks will usually go through three steps of defense before they spray their stink. For starters, their natural black and white coloring is meant to scare off any curious and hungry predators. Next, if the threat continues to present itself, the skunk will stomp repeatedly on the ground, warning about what’s about to happen if the predator doesn’t high-tail it back home. 

If after all of these warning signs, the skunk still feels threatened, it will unleash its stinky smelling spray towards the predator and flee to safety. 

The Science of the Skunk Stink 

The skunk has two glands located on either side of its anus that release its potent spray. Spray ammunition, however, isn’t easy to come by. Typically, a skunk only carries about five or six “shots” of this spray and needs up to 10 days to fully “reload.”

A skunk’s stinky shot is a thiol—an organic compound with sulfur as the primary ingredient. The spray has an odor very similar to a rotten egg smell making it unpleasant, to say the least. Worst of all, the spray is so potent that it can be smelled up to half a mile away and can linger for weeks. When hit by the spray, predators (including humans) will experience nausea, temporary blindness, and stinging of the eyes. 

Skunks are accurate snipers with their stink shots. They can hit a target up to 10 feet away. Common predators like wolves, badgers, and foxes rarely attack the skunk because of its spray. Their only regular predator is the Great Horned Owl. Well that, and a professional pest control expert

Don’t Mess With Skunks, Call a Professional!

The odor from the spray of a skunk is notoriously hard to get off of both humans and pets; household scent remedies are no match for mother nature. Let’s just say you’ll want to work from home for a few days if you get hit by one. If you see a skunk, carefully avoid it and immediately call pest control. 


Vulcan Termite and Pest Control, Inc. is one of the longest-running family-owned pest control companies in the state of Alabama. We’ve offered custom pest control services in the Birmingham area for residential and commercial customers since 1965. If you’re having a pest problem, big or small, contact us today!