Dealing With Skunks While Camping or Hiking
Skunks may seem like cute little foragers, which they are, but they also have a potent and pungent defense mechanism that they are not hesitant to use. Did you know that some skunks can spray up to 20 feet with their oily secretions that adhere to almost everything in its path? Not only that, but anyone who has been “skunked” can tell you first-hand how cleaning and deodorizing afterward can be enough to ruin any trip outdoors. Let's take a closer look at skunks, what you can do to avoid attracting them, and what to do if you or your site gets sprayed.
Food is the Biggest Attraction
Hands down, skunks are attracted to food more than anything else, and it's rare that just one skunk will end up showing up once a new food source is discovered. They have an acute sense of smell as well, and this means that even a small amount of food can attract a handful of skunks to your site. Once they associate your site with food, they will quickly become a perpetual problem. It could take days for them to move on even after you've taken steps to hide your food and associated smells.
Skunks tend to only spray when they feel threatened, but they are not hesitant to do so. It doesn't take a lot for a skunk to err on the side of caution in order to repel any potential threats. Consequently, you can become sprayed at any time that you're within shooting distance, and the chances of that happening depends largely on the disposition of the skunk in question.
Prevention is definitely the operative word when it comes to skunks and avoiding problems in the first place. Make sure that you keep food away from where you sleep, and try to keep your living area or shelter upwind from where you cook, prepare or store your food as well. You also want to try and seal your shelter as much as possible in order keep them from sneaking in and becoming startled as soon as they are discovered.
There are a number of skunk repellents, including many that can be home-brewed, and they all will have varying-degrees of effectiveness. Just remember that while they may provide an extra layer of protection, they won't rid skunk problems no matter how expensive they are, or what kind of ingredients they contain. Use them to compliment your common-sense approach to eliminating the incentive to wander onto your site in the first place. Sadly, the only real way to eliminate skunk problems is to kill or capture them, and both options are not practical in the field except under very rare circumstances.
Learn more about what skunks are in the area where you plan on hiking or camping, and take a closer look at what you can do to prevent skunk-related problems on your next trip. Chances are by taking these and other basic precautions that you come across will almost eliminate the threat of being sprayed altogether. Believe me, the last thing you want to be doing on your trip is getting skunk spray off of your body, clothing and equipment.