MANHATTAN: There are two foolproof ways to avoid the pungent smell of a skunk: don’t go into areas where skunks can live, but if you do, for heaven’s sake, don’t spray yourself.
When those two factors collide, humans and pets generally get the short end of the deal.
“It is certainly a better idea to prevent the problem than to try to deal with the after effects,” said Charlie Lee, wildlife specialist at K-State Research and Extension.
It is rare for a healthy skunk to bite a human. However, one who shows active signs of rabies (aggressiveness, seizures, or trips, to name a few) may be more inclined to bite and could transmit the disease to humans or animals.
Most commonly, however, a skunk will try to chase away a predator or invade a human by spraying a yellow-tinged oily liquid, called musk, stored in two sacks near the animal’s anus.
“Each bag has about a teaspoon of musk, which is enough for multiple sprays,” said Lee. “The musk is discharged through the nipples that help the skunks to target the things they are trying to repel. Each nipple has its own musk bag, so a skunk can shoot with both barrels, and can discharge the musk in a fog or stream. “
Musk cannot transmit the rabies virus, Lee said, but it can temporarily blind or stun people if they are sprayed on the face.
While the health effects of being sprayed by a skunk are minimal, it is unpleasant to remove the bitter odor from your hair, clothing, and body. Lee said the following blend, discovered by chemist Paul Krebaum, has been shown to be effective:
1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide
¼ cup baking soda
1 teaspoon of liquid detergent.
“Mix those three ingredients in an open container and use it right away,” he said. “Don’t mix these ingredients beforehand because when oxygen is released, the container can explode.”
The mixture can be used on both people and pets, but Lee has warned users to avoid splashing in the eyes or mouth. In pets, allow the mixture to sit for five minutes before rinsing.
For inanimate objects (surfaces, covers, chairs, and other external objects), Lee suggested a mixture of 1 cup of liquid bleach and 1 gallon of water. “Be aware that bleach can stain surfaces,” he said.
Lee added that some of the effective commercial products available at many stores include Skunk-Off, Odormute, Fresh Wave, Epoleon N-100, and Neutroleum Alpha.
“Neutroleum Alpha is one that has been used to control skunk odor in a variety of settings,” said Lee. “Deodorizes by masking the scent with a different one that is described as minty or pleasant. You can use it directly on surfaces or it can be used as an air deodorant by placing it on paper towels or napkins and hanging them in the area. “
Lee pointed out that a home remedy that probably works is not what people think it is: “Tomato juice is not something I recommend,” he said. “It appears to be only marginally effective.”
“There are many products that will help consumers in a difficult or uncomfortable situation. Keep in mind that at times when humidity is high or raining, the odor will seem to return. In those times, just reapply the product. “
More information on wildlife management issues is available online from K-State Research and Extension.
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