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The FAQs are here!

 

The Birds and the Bees of Skunks
                                                             
By Dr. Jerry W Dragoo, Ph.D.                          

Skunks are induced ovulators. In other words the eggs are shed within a few hours of copulation. Because skunks are monestrous (one estrous cycle per year) they cannot afford to shed eggs before copulation. This strategy ensures that the eggs will be fertilized. High levels of luteinizing hormones (LH) are required for ovulation to occur. LH is produced by the anterior pituitary gland which is controlled by the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus requires environmental stimuli before the signal to turn on production of LH can occur. That environmental stimulus is an aggressive male.

The male has to be aggressive in order to stimulate the female's hypothalamus. I would not call the aggression fighting but rather foreplay.  Unlike the Klingon example, none of the participants would be. Seriously injured. It would require too much energy to heal wounds and to develop an embryo. That would be disadvantageous.

In skunks, as in all mammals, sperm are cheap. Males only have to inseminate the female and their work is done. So it is to the male skunk's advantage to find as many females as possible. The females, however, develop the embryo, give birth and raise the young, so they give much more invested in each offspring than does the male After copulation fertilization the females become extremely aggressive toward males, and will do serious damage to a male in order to protect her investment.

There are times when a female skunk will produce a litter later in the year, but usually is after she has lost a previous litter; or. Was not "stimulated" enough to induce ovulation, or was a young, animal. The heat cycle in these animals as a result will be spread out over several months. If a female has not been stimulated to ovulate, she may remain in estrous for a longer period of time.

Skunks have many natural predators. The young and weak also can be removed from the population by disease and however, a result of Natural Selection.  Fitness is not measured by the strength of an animal but rather it's ability to produce viable offspring's. If skunks were spontaneous ovulators, they would risk not producing young (getting their genes into the next generation) during their one breeding season. The animals that had induced ovulation were able to put more young (i.e., more genes) into the next generation.

Jerry W. Dragoo, Ph.D.
Mephitologist, and Research
Assistant Professor at the
Museum of Southwestern Biology,
University of New-Mexico.

                                                                                            

Danny DeVito vs Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Fall is upon us. A skunk's metabolism shifts gears to absorb EVERY fat gram and EVERY calorie they can get, preparing for "the long hard Winter"......even if they spend it inside our homes, under our electric blankets, eating from our microwave and watching TV!!!! This can be a time of excessive, deadly weight gain. Watch your skunks and AVOID that gain, because avoiding it is MUCH EASIER than eliminating it!!!

How much should a skunk weigh???? HOW LONG IS A STRING????? There is NO definitive answer to either question, REGARDLESS of what you hear. We've heard of "experts" deciding what is "the proper weight" and we've even heard of a vet saying "all skunks should weigh 6 lbs". Give us a break here!                                                                

OK.......brain strain.......should Danny DiVito and Kareem Abdul Jabbar weigh the same thing?????? Well, WHY NOT??? They are the same specie!! Should all men weigh XXX pounds?? To say that "all skunks should weigh XX pounds" is just as unrealistic as to say Danny and Kareem should weigh the same!!!

                                                                                                                 
Should a newborn baby, 18 inches long, weigh the same thing as a newborn who comes into this world at 30 inches long???????? NOT HARDLY!!! OK, why not?? Simple answer: GENETIC SKELETAL STRUCTURE DIFFERENCES!!                                                     

If both examples weighed the same thing, one party in each example would be in SERIOUS MEDICAL TROUBLE --- Either severely damaged due to anorexia or obesity!!!!!!! A 7+ foot tall man should weigh CONSIDERABLY more than a man under 5 feet, don't you think? Of course!!! That tiny 18 inch newborn had better NOT weigh in at the weight of the 30 incher!!!!!!

Want to further complicate the picture??? Health, age and innate activity levels enter into the picture too, both with people and with skunks. The always more lazy, do-nothing-but-sleep-and-eat will gain weight MUCH faster than the highly active, running-climbing-playing one will.....no matter what the specie. Those debilitated with injury or arthritis will gain easier and faster......and find it much more difficult to lose. Should Kathrine Hepburn weigh the same thing as Britney Spears? Ohhhhhhh I think not!! Age, activity and health ALL play a part in that answer!

                                                                                                        
A reasonably simple way to decide on your skunk's "proper" weight (besides your common sense) is to use their stripes as a gauge. Their stripes should NOT look like || EVER!!!!! Nor should they be W I D E L Y spaced either. . A pair of soft, gentle, reasonably spaced ( ) stripes are what you strive for. There should be NO wrinkles in the forehead of the skunk. Meat should not HANG or SLIDE OFF floppily from side to side when they walk. (I'm not talking about the natural waddle they have!!) You should never hear them pant in exertion of walking. They shouldn't grunt or groan when they stand up or lay down.

As I mentioned earlier.......your COMMON SENSE is one of your best guides. Use your eyes, too. Protect their health and longevity. Keep each skunk at IT'S BEST WEIGHT!!

                                             

All Rights Reserved to
Shelor Brumbeloe
Skunks As Pets, Inc.

 

 Some might disagree with things in the following list, but the list was compiled BY SKUNK OWNERS who's skunks have had problems with the items mentioned.  The list is in NO particular order of importance! If YOUR skunk does not have such problems, consider yourself to be lucky. Forewarned is forearmed!!
   

      A NO-NO LIST FOR SKUNK OWNERS!! 

A veterinarian mixing medications!!! Can be DEADLY!
Pine chips/Cedar chips (can cause respiratory problems)
Clumping and/or scented kitty litter
Put child proof locks on cabinets that contain medicines, pesticides or cleaning products, and store in HIGH cabinets!
Open toilet bowl lids....Kits have drowned in toilets.
Other pet's food must not be available to skunks, especially ferrets and cats.
Larger pets...Use EXTREME CAUTION.....injury doesn't have to be from viciousness...accidents happen.
Pet doors / Outside doors left open
Dryer vents are an invitation to the outside
Febreeze (National Car Rental advertises using Febreeze in their cars!! Other's might, too) 
Scented candles
RECLINERS are extremely dangerous for skunks!
Hanging cords, such as for an IRON
"Stuck" drawers!!! Don't snatch!!! It could be "stuck" with a baby skunk!
Milk Products   Some skunks are lactose intolerant.
Lysol products
Pine Oil products
Roach killing products (including Boric Acid, it is NOT harmless!!)
Rodent control products (don't trust exterminators to know!!)
Glade Potpourri products-carpet fresheners or air fresheners 
Raw meats of any kind
Red meats whether cooked or raw
Products with bee pollen
Products with Sulphur Dioxide preservative...learn to READ       LABELS!
Sunflower seed HULLS- perforates the intestines leading to death.
Antifreeze......sweet-tasting, deadly poison
Spring Pollens ( yes some skunks are allergic to trees and grasses,!!)
Chocolate of any kind
Acetaminophen can be deadly. Use baby ASPIRIN when necessary
Monosodium Glutamate
Many live plants are toxic
Soy products...some have had allergic reactions.
Wheat products...some have had allergic reactions.
Hair sprays
Aerosol Air Fresheners
Perfumes and colognes
Processed turkey or chicken luncheon meat...heavy on the    preservatives

VISITORS - both adult and children - PROTECT YOUR SKUNK - do NOT let anyone handle them. It doesn't take much of a bite for some people to cry rabies even if you think you know them....and we all know what happens next! 

Remember Aspen...

Remember Chloe...

Remember the Kansas City Six!        

Copyright 2000 
Shelor Brumbeloe
Skunks As Pets, Inc.                           

                                            

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do they still have their stinkers? Our answer is, "We may be crazy, but we are not suicidal!"  Domestic/pen-raised skunks are descented at about 4 weeks of age, before they leave the breeding farm.

2. Do they make good pets? Though skunks are not for everyone (as well as cats, dogs, birds or children!) for those people with patience, understanding and a sense of humor, they are wonderful, funny, affectionate and cuddly pets.

3. Do they deal well with children? As a general rule, this answer depends on the child. With a calm, reasonably quiet child who is willing to listen and learn about them, skunks generally do extremely well with kids. However, a grabby, aggressive, chasing child or a child too young to follow instructions could, in fact, be bitten. Skunks look more like a stuffed toy than a living, breathing, feeling creature to a child.  Please consider NO pets until children are older.

4. How long do they live? With the proper diet and veterinary care, skunk ownership is a long term commitment. We know of one pet skunk in Alabama that was 22 and one in Georgia that lived to be 23 old.

5. Are they destructive? No, not as a general rule. The rare skunk with a poor diet. may chew wallpaper or the sheetrock behind it. The veterinary explanation for this is a trace mineral deficiency. They don't chew wires or claw furniture. They may steal your clothes, towels or bedspread to soften THEIR bed!

6. Are their teeth and claws sharp? Yes, their teeth are sharp and no, their claws aren't. They have "digging" claws like a dog, not "ripping" claws like a cat. Their teeth are sharp and they can bite. With gentle handling, good diet and a good home, and after they learn about our hands during feeding, they rarely bite. A hyper, immature baby may nip by accident until it learns to accept hand feeding.

7. Can they be declawed? ABSOLUTELY NOT! A skunks claws are the same as our fingers. Imagine you trying to crawl around on your fist or trying to hold food with no fingers. How would you get something that was choking you out of your throat?

8. What do they eat? Their diet should be widely varied. We don't enjoy eating the same thing day after day---neither do they! 90% of their TOTAL diet should be a wide variety of vegetables. The remaining 10% should consist of low-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, small amounts of fruit, a vanilla wafer a day OR a graham cracker, a dog biscuit, baked or boiled chicken or turkey, baked, broiled or water packed fish, popcorn, high fiber (low sugar, low fat) cereals. Learn to read labels!! Many preservatives, especially sulfur dioxide and MSG, are dangerous and possibly fatal to skunks. NO CHOCOLATE OF ANY KIND----EVER!!! Chocolate is deadly to animals. No seed hulls or nut hulls. They can perforate the intestine and cause death. No raw meat. No red meat or pork. No cat food of any kind ever, unless recommended for certain medical problems, by a vet. It is much too high in indigestible protein for a skunk. No beef dog food. We recommend chicken-based or lamb and rice-based products.

9. Can they be housebroken? Skunks are naturally corner-trained. Place a litter box with either newspaper or UNSCENTED litter in the corner that THEY choose and they will use it there.

10. Do they need to be spayed and neutered? Do not let a pet store convince you that your skunk has already been "fixed"! They have only been descented!! They still need to be neutered or spayed by 4 months of age. Having only one breeding time per year, the heat/rut cycle is terrible on their systems and it is not uncommon for a female to die during the heat cycle. They become more and more unpleasant as the cycle approaches. Unneutered males tend to get much, much more aggressive as their cycle approaches and some become "friendly" with stuffed toys, cats and your foot! You should know that a male holds the female with his teeth, so your foot is NOT a good option!!

11. Do they need shots? The current shots recommended by our vets are: Galaxy DA2PPvL+CV and Eclipse 4. These encompass all the dog and cat vaccines. At the present time, there is no approved rabies vaccine for skunks in the United States. There is a vaccine in Canada that is 98% effective, versus the 70% efficiency rate that we have, but the USDA hasn't approved its use here! Rabies is contracted by being bitten by a rabid animal or eating the carcass of a rabid animal. Our pets are kept in the house and, if taken outside, are closely watched, so we have no problem.

12. Do they make any noise? Their "vocabulary" is varied: from a soft bird-like whistle to the loud, raucous screech of a Macaw. The soft sounds are generally curiosity or affection and the loud noises are pain, anger, fear or competition. They usually are virtually silent animals.

13. Aren't they all black and white? NO, NO and NO!!! Skunks come in every color except green and blue! There is every shade of brown, black, gray and blond. There are albino skunks, that have pink eyes and there are white skunks, that have dark eyes. There are even lavender skunks. They can have 2 stripes or 4 or 6, or more. They can have spots and swirls mixed in amongst the stripes. Their tails are all different shapes and sizes. They are as different as we are!

14. How much do they weigh? There is no more an average weight for skunks than there is for people. Their skeletal size differs, but a loosely "average" weight is between 7 and 10 pounds. An extremely long, tall skunk will weigh more than a tiny, petite skunk. Again---just like us!!

15. Can they be trained to do tricks? A "natural behavior" may be enhanced, such as standing on the hind legs to reach food. This could easily be turned into "dancing". Their desire for snacks can lead to many "tricks". One of our skunks will use a peanut dispenser repeatedly. With patience on the owners part, they can learn just about anything you want. It takes patience, NOT SWATTING, because skunks DO NOT deal well with corporal punishment!

16. Can they be disciplined? They will get even, if they're hit!! A common way is for them to climb up on the bed and leave an unpleasant "surprise" on the pillow of the offender! They may wait a good long while, but rest assured that they will get even. They may also bite fiercely and walk away with their head up as if to say, "So there! "That'll teach you to hit ME!" Skunks will come when they're called----if they want to ---- or if you make a noise related to food! Refrigerator doors, can openers and microwaves make excellent "skunk calls"! A stern voice and a loud clap will work wonders. They love to please and an unhappy voice from their owner makes them pay attention. Some owners use a squirt bottle for discipline.

Skunks are not for everyone. They take tremendous amounts of love, time and patience. But, for those who are willing to give, skunks make the greatest, funniest and most affectionate lap babies in the world. They are our hearts!

For more information contact:

Skunks As Pets, Inc.
Skunklady2@aol.com
Shelor Brumbeloe  706-793-0108

or

JANE BONE