Skunk

Mustelid family

By Scott Meyer

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Suave and debonair as Pepé Le Pew could be, he never won the heart of the cat he tried so hard to woo. And no matter how handsome the skunks coat, regardless of how downright cuddly they may appear, despite any good deed it performs for your garden, the skunk is never a welcome sight. But like dear Pepé, skunks are not easily deterred.

Four species: spotted, hognosed, hooded, and striped

Diet: Skunks are omnivores, dining mostly on insects, small rodents, and eggs. They prey on grubs and wasps, often digging up the lawn to get at the pests.

Habits: Skunks are crepuscular, meaning they are most active around dawn and dusk.

Skunk cabbage. Neither a skunk nor a cabbage, this member of the arum family (Lysichiton americanus) grows in bogs and meadows, blooms in early spring, and, like its namesake, has a distinctive odor.

Aromatherapy. When threatened, a skunk arches its back, stamps its front feet, and shuffles backwards. Then it raises its tail, bends itself into a U shape, and releases its musk. The spray travels up to 16 feet.

If you or your pet has been skunked, try this fresh remedy from Colorado State University: Mix 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (from a drugstore), 1/4 cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap. Use this solution to wash your clothes, bathe your dog (rinse afterwards with tap water), or wipe affected areas of your house.

Best in show. At the annual National Grand Skunk Championship, pet skunks are judged for their appearance and personality. Color classes include Chocolate Chip, Apricot/Blonde, Champagne, and Smoke.

See also: polecat, wood pussy, shutout, foumart, lowlife, stinker

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