What makes skunks' spray smell so terrible? A family of baby skunks in a hollow log. (Thinkstock)
What makes skunks' spray smell so terrible?
Lexile

You asked us, what makes skunks spray smell so terrible?
 
The skunk's smelly armory is a horrific wonder of nature. First off, the main chemical weapons are sulfur-based compounds like the ones that make rotten eggs and flatulence so nasty. Second, these compounds are mixed with other ultra-sticky chemicals, which means the smell is a nightmare to get rid of.

And then there's the delivery system for these chemical weapons, which is a thing of beauty, if not a joy forever. Skunks have little nipple squirters, one on each side of their rear ends that can rotate independently like an anti-aircraft weapon. I'm not kidding.

Even scarier, these weapons are accurate up to 10 feet and skunks aim for the eyes, so a good blast of skunk has pretty much the same effect as tear gas, and aside from sending you staggering around clutching your eyes and screaming, it can even make you throw up.

Before you call the exterminator to get Pepe Le Pew out of your backyard, consider this: skunks are shy, mild-mannered creatures and they'll only spray if threatened or cornered.

Also, they're veracious eaters of bugs and mice, so they're actually pest exterminators themselves.

And finally, there's this - baby skunks!

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do skunks aim for the eyes?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (6)
  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    5/06/2016 - 09:38 a.m.

    I always just imagined that the skunks sprayed the gas out of their "rear-end" not out of nipples. Its cool but also a little gross to figure out that information.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    5/06/2016 - 01:28 p.m.

    The skunk spray is a defense mechanism. They usually aim for the eyes because it will temporarily blind the attacker, giving the skunk enough time to get away safely.

  • erino-6-bar
    5/07/2016 - 08:53 p.m.

    Skunks aim for the eyes because a skunk's spray will have the "same effect as tear gas." This causes the target to temporarily loose their eyesight which makes them much less of a threat to the skunk. Not only will it cause the target vision loss and immense pain, "it can even make [the target] throw up."

    I was surprised to learn that skunks produce a gas that has the same effect as tear gas.

  • annag-4-bar
    5/09/2016 - 10:10 p.m.

    Skunks aim for the eyes to blind the predator for a moment so the skunk can get away. Skunk spray acts like a tear gas. Smithsonian says," Even scarier, these weapons are accurate up to 10 feet and skunks aim for the eyes, so a good blast of skunk has pretty much the same effect as tear gas, and aside from sending you staggering around clutching your eyes and screaming, it can even make you throw up." This article was interesting because I never knew that skunks aim for your eyes.

  • jadenf2-pay
    5/23/2016 - 06:26 p.m.

    I think that skunks aim for the eyes so that they can escape when they are in a situation where they feel threatened. The purpose of aiming for the eyes is to blind the possible attacker.

  • emilyb2-bur
    1/11/2017 - 12:53 p.m.

    Skunks aim for the eyes because they probably want to send a clear message to the person who has bothered them that they shouldn't bother them ever again . They want to blind the person or predator. I think skunks and their spray make sense . That's there way of defending themselves, so if that's how animals are it's fine because we can't change them.

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