Do skunks attack humans?

Skunks are one of the most misunderstood wild animals there is. A certain level of fear is attributed to humans running into one of these peace loving animals. There is a general misconception about skunks that they are dangerous animals and that they attack humans once they see them. Well, this is not true. In fact, a skunk will mostly run from you if it sees you rather than run towards you.

Skunks will not attack unless they are threatened or cornered and even then, they give ample warnings to the intruder before attacking. If a human comes too close to them, they run but if they are in a situation where there is no escape in sight, then they stamp their feet, raise their tails, and grunt in protest. If humans continue to proceed then they may have no option but to spray.

Skunks know that their spray reserve is not everlasting and so they don't waste it. The spray, which is stored inside two scent glands in their anal region, has an offensive odor which can destabilize or disorientate a predator immediately. The spray contains a mixture of chemicals containing sulfur such as thiols, which is a powerful analgesic. The muscles located around the anal region allow the skunk to spray intruders with a high level of precision from as far as 10 to 15 feet away. The spray can also cause disorientation, nausea, and temporary blindness.

So, if skunks do not just attack, under what circumstances do they?

You ignore the warning
A skunk does not want to spray you but it will if you keep getting close to it or try to touch it. It is possible that you did not see the skunk or that you were trying to remove it from your property, but if you do not back off after the skunk has done its warning ritual, it will spray you.

You touch its children
Mother skunks have to leave their babies at some point during nesting to hunt for food. If the mother skunk returns to find you with its babies, then it may attack you in defense.

It is rabid
Skunks are one of the major carriers of the rabies virus in the animal kingdom. Most cases of skunk bites have been linked to rabies infection in the skunk. Rabies is a deadly virus that causes inflammation of the brain of an infected animal or person, causing them to behave in strange or erratic ways. Rabies can be transmitted from infected animals to humans through saliva. Skunks infected with the rabies virus behave in erratic ways and may likely attack humans when they see them. Signs of infection in skunks include daylight sightings, foaming at the mouth, aggressiveness, seizures, etc.

How to avoid a skunk attack
Stay away
The best method to avoid being attacked by a skunk is to stay away from the skunk. If you notice a skunk has invaded your compound, do not try to go looking for it. If you come in contact with one in your home, keep your distance. If you find a nest of baby skunks or one wandering around, don't try to capture it or carry it with your hands. Baby skunks can still spray you and its mother can attack you if it finds you touching its babies.

Call in the professionals
Many people make the mistake of trying to handle skunks all by themselves and they end up getting attacked and sprayed. The best thing to do when you realize that you have a skunk problem is to call in the professionals to locate, remove, and relocate the animal. If it is rabid, you do not want to risk an infection, so it is better to let the professionals handle it as they will know what to do with the skunks.

Go back to the East Washington DC wildlife removal home page.