Skunks are legendary for powerful predator-deterrent, a hard-to-remove, horrible-smelling spray. Most who have been skunked say the smell is indescribably horrible, and many find it literally nauseating.

Officially, skunks are a part of the Mephitidae family. They are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material and changing their diets as the seasons change. In populated areas, they treat your garbage bags like piñatas. Pet owners often experience a skunk finding its way into a garage or basement where pet food is kept. Skunks commonly dig holes in lawns in search of grubs and worms. Skunks enjoy living near people. They’re comfortable making a den under a porch or in a garage. However, some musk can leak into their feces, making them less than perfect neighbors.

Q. What do they look like?
A. Skunk species vary in size from about 15 to 37 inches long and in weight from about 1 to 18 pounds. They have moderately elongated bodies with relatively short, well-muscled legs and long front claws for digging. Although the most common fur color is black and white, some skunks are brown or grey, and a few are cream-colored. All skunks are striped, even from birth. They may have a single thick stripe across back and tail, two thinner stripes, or a series of white spots and broken stripes (in the case of the spotted skunk).

Q. Why do the stripes point to the sprayer?
A. If it seems like the skunk’s stripes are pointing right to where the noxious spray comes out, that’s because they are. A 2011 study found that animal species that choose fight over flight when faced with a predator or person often have markings that draw attention to their best weapon.

Q. What is the skunk’s scent bomb?
A. Skunks are notorious for their anal scent glands, which they can use as a defensive weapon. Skunks have two glands; one on each side of the anus. These glands produce the skunk’s spray, which is a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals such as thiols, which have an extremely offensive and nauseating odor. A skunk’s spray is powerful enough to ward off bears and other potential attackers. Muscles located next to the scent glands allow them to spray with a high degree of accuracy, as far as 10 to 15 feet. The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness, and is sufficiently powerful to be detected by a human nose up to three nautical miles downwind. It can linger for many days and will hinder all attempts to remove it.

Q. Why are they doing that?
A. If his stripes and reputation aren’t enough, the skunk will try to scare off a predator, dog, or person with a complex warning dance in an effort to avoid having to actually spray his scent, which would render him helpless until he can “reload.” But be careful … it turns out his scent glands refill quickly.

Skunks will run through a series of maneuvers intended to intimidate, including backing away, raising his tail as a warning flag, stomping the ground, and slapping his tail. Should the aggressor fail to get the hint, the skunk, turns its body into an ominous curve, both nose and rear end pointed at the threat. He then rotates his anal glands like an anti-aircraft gun, at the same time adjusting the spray like a hose nozzle. When face to face with an aggressor, the skunk aims a jet at the attacker’s eyes. When the predator is at a distance, the skunk sprays a mist up to 15 feet.

Q. What do you do if you’ve encountered one?
A. If you see or think you have a skunk DO NOT try and remove it yourself, or you’ll be sorry. Contact a pest or critter removal specialist.

If you get sprayed by a skunk don’t run back into your home to try and get the obnoxious odor off you and your clothing. If you do, everything you and your clothing comes-in-contact with will absorb the skunk’s odor. Remove your clothing in your garage or basement and put them in the trash. Here is a helpful link for how to de-skunk yourself or your child.

If you let out your pet and a skunk sprays him, in all probability, your stinky and confused pet will come back into the house and rubbed the skunk’s odor into the carpet, upholstery, and anything else it can find to try and rub it off. Get him out of the house as quickly as possible. Here is a helpful link for how to de-skunk your pet.

If a skunk has sprayed in the garage, basement, crawl space, or under your house (typically they spray wherever their nests are located), contact a skunk odor eradication professional immediately.

Yes, there are products and home remedies to get the disgusting smell off you and your pets. But none of those products or remedies are 100 percent effective at removing that horrible odor from your home or its furnishings, carpet, floors, and walls.