2.15.2012

Whey There Are More Dead Skunks on the Road this Time of Year

(Editor’s Note: Recently, several subscribers mentioned that they had seen a surprisingly large number of dead skunks littering California highways. Because California’s Capitol always puts its readers first, here is the following explanation.)

The reason so many skunks – most of them males — are accidentally finding their way to Skunk Heaven in February is because they are in lust.

February and March is skunk mating season.

Males, imitating their two-legged counterparts, are very excitable during this time, obsessively driven by their zeal in locating a mate.

Usually, the average range of a skunk is one-half to two miles. But in their quest for a mate, males can travel as much as four to five miles each night, a likely explanation as to why such a high number have been pancaked along California highways.

Mephitis mephitis is the Latin name for the house cat-sized striped skunk that lives throughout California and North America. The English word mephitic means “foul-smelling” or “putrid.”

And that’s what rejected males get a strong dose of from the females spurning them.

In their emboldened, sex-addled condition, males can also lay some stink on humans or larger animals that they would normally avoid.

For successful males, a litter, on average four to six kittens – yes, kittens — will be born in May and stay with their mothers until fall.

This is not a California-only phenomenon.

A February 2006 article in Texas Parks & Wildlife quotes Angelo State University biologist Robert Dowler:

“We see more numbers of road kill skunks in February and March than other times of the year. Preliminary data suggests that road kill rates of skunks may double in parts of Texas during mating season.”

Andrea Sears in a February 10, 2010 piece in Kentucky’s Richmond Register says she saw three dead skunks on the way to work.

“The normally nocturnal animals actually will become active during the day as well during mating season which begins in late January,” Sears says.

“But beware, the males move slower and are more reluctant to flee when threatened during this time, making … chances of getting sprayed greater.”

Sears suggests the following to ensure no litters take up residence under a house:

“Seal off all openings to (the) foundation with a sturdy mesh wire. This hardware cloth should be buried 12 or 18 inches below the ground, with the bottom six inches bent outwards in an L shape to discourage the skunks from digging under it.”

Bon chance, Pepe.

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2 Comments »

  1. Greg. How timely with your skunk info. Last night, Loudon Wainwright III played in Davis at the Mondavi. While he didn’t play “that” particular song, he is the original “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” guy.

    Comment by Dwight — 2.15.2012 @ 11:49 am

  2. “Mephitic” is a great word. Thanks for giving us the defnition and context. It is the kind of word former Senator Quentin Kopp would have loved to use during a Floor debate regarding a measure that had mephitic qualities.

    Comment by Let It Bleed — 2.15.2012 @ 2:06 pm

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