Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road

Published on: Mar. 12, 2010

SkunkIt’s hard for me to prevent the lyrics of that old song from coming to mind when I pass a road-killed skunk on the highway. It’s one of those songs that I never really liked but I can’t forget it either. Late February through March is the time of the year when dead skunks are most often seen, and smelled, on our roadways. That correlates with the Missouri breeding season of our most common species, the striped skunk. Skunks are out foraging or seeking mates from late afternoon through the night. Their slow gait and reluctance to give ground make them a frequent victim of vehicular traffic, especially at this time of the year.

Both sexes of the striped skunk have similar coloration, typically black with a narrow white stripe on the face and a wider white stripe on the back of the head that forks on the shoulders and extends toward and sometimes onto the tail. If you see lots of skunks, you’ll see some with atypically colored coats, such as brown, cream-colored or all-white.

Skunks can be a nuisance if they take up residence near or under your home or outbuildings. Their dens are usually underground and range from the very simple to the more extensive tunnels that were dug by other animals and then adapted by skunks for their own use. They usually bear one litter per year, with young born in early May or early June. They can provide benefits to landowners by catching mice and reducing insect populations.

Most animal predators will avoid skunks, but dogs that haven’t learned the consequences may threaten skunks and be sprayed with musk. I was with a dog years ago that was sprayed, and I recall that the up-close contact with the musk is considerably worse than the odor that drifts into your vehicle when passing roadkills. It did stink to “high, high heaven.”

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