Is it Safe to Handle Skunks with Bare Hands?

The skunk is no doubt a curious little critter. They are often feared due to their ability to spray predators with a pungent residue, which shoots out of their anal scent glands. This is their number one defensive mechanism. And this is how we usually know they are around, catching an occasional whiff of a passer-by skunk. On each side of the skunk’s anus are two glands. These glands naturally produce chemicals that contain sulphur, such as thiols. This is the scent that people and other creatures find to be highly offensive. Good thing for the skunk, though. It’s a great way to ward off potential attackers, such as bears. And trying to remove the smell from your clothing can be a miserable experience. Some people might be able to relate.

Many people never actually see skunks, except lying dead beside the road after being hit by a random motor vehicle. You can smell them long before you see them. However, if you spend any time in the woods, it’s not unlikely you’ll someday come face-to-face with a skunk. For those who have ever come in contact with these scurrying, black-and-white varmints, know that they can seem harmless from a distance but if you ever happen to cross a mother skunk protecting her babies you could be getting more than you bargained for. A mommy skunk whose sole job is to protect her young can quickly turn vicious. In addition, skunks have extremely sharp teeth.

If you are ever in a situation where you are close to a skunk, DO NOT attempt to pick it up, especially with your bare hands. In the case that a mother skunk has been killed, babies may wander from their den looking for food. They may even be weak, sick, or crying. Even if they need attention do not pick them up with your bare hands because skunks, as well as raccoons and foxes, are the most common carriers of rabies.

Be aware that it is not uncommon for skunks to sometimes act as scavengers, especially in settled areas. They may come out of hiding and seek out garbage left by humans. But if you seriously believe the baby skunks are in trouble and need attention, or if you are unsure of what to do, pick up the phone and call your local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center or the Game Commission. This also goes for skunks you believe may be injured.

If you happen to have a box or a sheet you can carefully toss that over them while the authorities arrive. This will help prevent them from wandering off and getting lost or potentially endangering people nearby. If it appears rabid, keep your distance and warn others until help arrives.

Go back to the How to get rid of skunks home page.

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