On a long drive this past Sunday, I saw a fresh dead skunk on the road every few miles. It sure looked like a bad night for skunks since all of them had been hit by cars. What’s going on?
The short answer: Breeding season. Breeding season usually starts in late January. Males can travel up to four or five miles a night, but are reluctant to flee when endangered, so they just get hammered on the roadways.
Skunks are found nearly anywhere in Kentucky. Because of their unmistakable odor, humans usually fear and dislike them. For the most part, though, skunks are beneficial to us because they feed on insect and rodent pests.
The skunk we see is the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), sometimes called a polecat. It is a member of the weasel family. Favorite skunk foods include grasshoppers, cricket, beetles, wasps, cutworms and other larvae. When insects are not available, they’ll feed on mice, rats, shrews, moles, even reptiles and amphibians. Watch them around your backyard chicken flock.
After breeding season (obviously rough on some of the males), five to nine kits are born in May and June. Weaned about 2-months old, the families break up during August and September to find their own homes. Home can be just about any underground den that may be found under old houses, porches, culverts, brush piles, tree stumps, or groundhog burrows. It is the finding of the den under your house or porch that can give folks fits. Prevention is the key word in avoiding this seeming catastrophe. Keep lawns and barnyards clean of debris, and make sure there are no entrances under your dwelling.
Want to learn more about Managing Skunk Problems? Contact the Henry County Extension Office at 845-2811 and ask for publication FOR-49.
Henry County farmers may be interested in the following educational meetings for livestock, tobacco, and fruits and vegetables:
Feb. 25 — Henry County Cattleman’s Meeting Planned for 6:30 pm at the Henry County Extension Office.
Feb. 26 — Henry County Farmers Market Organizational Meeting, 6:30 pm, Henry County Extension Office.
March 5 — Tobacco Production Meeting including the new GAP Training for folks marketing with any contract Tobacco company. 10 a.m. at the Shelby County Extension Office.