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How Do Spotted Skunks Try to Scare Away Predators?

Now isn’t that cute --a skunk doing a handstand and a little dance. But no, wrong answer. If you encounter a spotted skunk upended, with its back vertical and its tail waving, it’s telling you to move away quickly or risk being showered with noxious oil. These gymnastically-skilled skunks can be deadly accurate, showering targets up to 15 feet (4.5 m) away with an atomized spray that is nearly invisible. The streams of unpleasant stink are released from two glands, located on either side of the skunk's anus.

We don't need no stinkin' oil:

  • The spotted skunk, which lives throughout western North America, from British Columbia to Central America, will also warn potential predators by stamping its front feet, raising its tail, and hissing.
  • A skunk stores about 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of the odorous oil in its glands, and can quickly spray five times in row. It takes about a week for the animal to replenish the oil.
  • The oil is composed of a blend of thiols -- (E)-2-butene-1-thiol, 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, and 2-phenylethanethiol. Thiols are added to natural gas to assist in the detection of leaks.
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