British Columbia

Skunk season arrives in Vancouver

A wildlife expert says baby skunks are leaving their mothers and becoming independent, which is why there appear to be more of them around the city at this time of year.

Increased sightings due to baby skunks leaving their mother's dens, says wildlife expert

This is time of year that most of the baby skunks are starting to leave their mothers and become independent, which is why there seem to be more skunks in Metro Vancouver. (Boviate/Flickr)

In the wilds of Vancouver, perhaps no animal inspires more terror to pedestrians than the skunk.

August is high season for the notoriously stinky black-and-white creatures, and many are being spotted around the Lower Mainland — especially in Vancouver's West End, West Vancouver and North Vancouver.

"Now's the time of year that most of the baby skunks are starting to leave their mothers and become independent," said Janelle Vanderbeek, a wildlife hospital coordinator with the Wildlife Rescue Association in Burnaby

"So they're dispersing, trying to find new territories of their own."

To spray or not to spray

Despite the relatively high number of sightings, Vanderbeek said that it's rare for a human to get sprayed by a skunk.

Janelle Vanderbeek, wildlife hospital coordinator with the Wildlife Rescue Association in Burnaby, says skunks are independent by three months of age. (CBC)

"It's usually just dogs and cats because people don't tend to charge headfirst towards skunks," she said.

Skunks tend to conserve their sprays for the most threatening situation as they have only five to six sprays stored in their scent glands, she said, and it can take up to two weeks to regenerate them. 

In fact, Vanderbeek said, skunks will give a lot of warning signs before they spray you: they will stomp and stamp, and then form their bodies into a U-shape.

"You want to run away at that point," she said.

Stinky solution

If you — or your pet — do end up getting sprayed, Vanderbeek has a simple home remedy.

"Four cups of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of baking soda, and a little bit of dish soap," she said. "Commercial options also work very well," she said. "Shower a lot."

As for the classic tomato juice remedy, Vanderbeek hasn't tried it herself personally, but doesn't suggest it either: "It's not the most efficient and cleanest way to get it off."

A peaceful coexistence?

Nevertheless, the furry creatures do provide some benefits.

"They're a great natural pest control, they eat lots of grubs, lots of moths and other insects," she said.

But Vanderbeek admitted that skunks — like other predators such as crows and raccoons —  will dig up lawns to find chafer beetles.

If you can't coexist with the skunk, she recommended calling wildlife control rather than putting out live traps, which could orphan a family.

Finally, in a skunk standoff, what is Vanderbeek's best advice?

"Just walk away slowly," she said.

With files from The Early Edition.