The following was originally posted in the May 2012 Nature Notes, Heartland Outdoor School’s newsletter:

This solitary critter will send the most fearsome of predators scrambling for cover.  The coyote gives him a wide berth, foxes cower from his presence, and only the Great Horned Owls dare to fly sorties against him; mainly because the owl cannot smell, at least not well enough to pass up a fine skunk dinner.  That’s right! A skunk!  Due to his repulsive spray, very few animals will go toe-to-toe with a skunk.  Most evenings in the spring will allow ample opportunities to view these fine critters ambling through the open fields without a care in the world; even to the point that a human can get really close without the skunk retreating (not a recommended practice).

Skunks belong to their own family and, despite earlier beliefs, are not related to weasels.  They are crepuscular and not nocturnal as many believe (so don’t panic if you see one at 3:00 PM).  Their diet consists mainly of insects but, due to their opportunistic nature, are properly categorized as carnivores.  Generally, skunks are courteous and will give plenty of warning before spraying as they only have 5-6 shots and it takes ten days to reload.  If you or your house pet fails to treat every skunk as though it were loaded (and trust me, it smells a lot worse up close), forget the tomatoes and grab the peroxide; it’s the only thing that will neutralize the spray.