"See that white tail facing your direction, I would back away slowly," advised Stephanie Hample of the Wild Center.
The stinky, striped animals are feared by many, but not at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. It's time for these skunks to take center stage.
The museum recently purchased the two male skunks as teaching tools and ambassadors for a species that makes most people pinch their nose.
"This is probably the only time I will ever get that close to a skunk," said John Norton of Clifton Park.
"I have never been that close to a skunk before," said Kieran Henrie of Oswego.
"Skunks kind of have a bad rep in most places because of their stink," Hample said. "We like to show off how cute they are and their purpose in the ecosystem."
But there is no reason to back away from these black and white fur balls. They are de-scented.
"I was interested in them because a couple weeks ago I was trying to trap a woodchuck in my yard and I trapped a skunk. And I was petrified because I didn't know what to do with it," said Lucille Rowe of Watertown.
According to the presentation, 70 percent of a skunk's diet is insects. They also prey on other pests like mice and moles.
"Some of the insects that are harmful to our crops, to our gardens and large plants, they eat a large percentage of them as well, so they can be really helpful around the yard," Hample said.
And the reason for their signature white stripe?
"The skunk simply stands out to make sure people know 'you don't want any piece of me' kind of thing," Norton said.
But if you do encounter a skunk in the wild and it turns its cheeks on you, you may want to get far away.
"They can spray up to 25 feet and they are very accurate within 10 feet," Henrie said.
If you want to see what the stink is all about, a theater program about the skunks is scheduled for Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. at the Wild Center.
Some states allow skunks as pets, but New York is not one of those states.
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