Sunday Science: Skunks in Season - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sunday Science: Skunks in Season

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It's the time of the year where many people are outdoors, maybe out camping. Which means you might be running into wildlife, including skunks. If you've seen that black and white pelt, chances are you've wanted to get out of there as fast as you can. But we met a pair of them at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake that are trying to change that perception.

These little snouts poking out of the animal carrier at the Wild Center might alarm you at first sight. They're skunks.

"You'll see when Day comes out their tails are different colors," says Leah Valerio with the Wild Center. "Night is a very typical color, two white stripes going down the back, but they can be almost all white or almost all black."

We first introduced you to Day and Night back in 2012 when the Wild Center bought them to use as animal ambassadors. Most skunks can aim and spray up to 15 feet -- but not these boys. They've been de-scented.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: "They're eating crickets -- are those some of their normal foods?"

Valerio: "Absolutely. In the wild, 70 percent of their diet is actually insects so they eat things like ground hornets, bees, ants. They eat a lot of the insects we don't like, so they're actually pretty beneficial to be around if you can get past the smell."

But skunks often raise some serious concerns. They are a rabies vector species -- meaning they can carry or transmit rabies. Even though these two have been raised by people since birth, the law requires that their caretakers have a full round of rabies shots.

And skunks are also a nuisance in neighborhoods too. Young are born in May -- and are often out wandering with their mother by June and July. Wildlife officials told us that people sometimes think it's cute when the mother skunk teaches her young fuzzballs to forage in their trash. But they say chances are, it won't be cute anymore when they are grown up and still doing it.

"They are attracted to human environments because of that," says Valerio. "We do provide some habitat because they will den underneath houses and buildings and go after trash, so you'll often see them in neighborhoods."

But like them or not, biologists say we need them.

"They're also vital prey for a lot of animals. You wouldn't think that, but animals like great-horned owls will actually eat skunks," says Valerio. "And they're just really unique. Not a lot of other animals defend themselves that way. It's really their only defense, that spray and that smell."

And she told us if you happen to be outside and you see a skunk, don't scream and run away or you might startle them. Just walk away slowly and quietly and you should be fine.

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