Be Careful! Discover How Far a Skunk Can Spray

Illegal Pets to Own In the United States: Skunks
© Geoffrey Kuchera/

Written by Angie Menjivar

Published: May 30, 2023

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There’s nothing quite as pungent as the smell of rotten eggs. It’s the type of scent that smacks you in the face and leaves you with a twisted expression. That’s what a skunk’s spray smells like so, be careful! Discover how far a skunk can spray!

What is a Skunk?

Skunks are omnivorous mammals that have a lifespan of about three years when in the wild. Their bodies can grow up to 19 inches long and their tails can grow up to 15 inches long. On average, skunks may weigh anywhere between seven ounces and 14 pounds. These small, furry animals with bushy tails are distinguished by their black and white colors.

While some skunks have stripes, others may have a swirl pattern or even spots. Even if you have never seen a skunk, it’s very possible you may have smelled one. Sometimes, skunks offer a bit of a warning by growling or even stomping their feet but other times, there is no warning and they just spray.

Skunks are mostly active at night, which is also why you may not see them, even though they venture through your neighborhood. During the day, they retreat into their dens, which they line with leaves. They eat a variety of prey like rodents, insects, birds, and bird eggs. However, they also enjoy plants and fruits.

Why Do Skunks Spray?

Skunks don’t just walk around spraying at random. They have this response when they’re feeling threatened. It may be a full-on confrontation with a predator, or they may have just gotten startled and responded in this defensive way. When they do give warning, along with stomping their feet, they may also flick their tail. These mammals are also capable of some unique acrobatic feats. While spraying, a skunk may move into a handstand to get you good!

Eastern spotted skunk

A spotted skunk will often perform handstands as a warning before spraying.

©Agnieszka Bacal/

Discover How Far a Skunk Can Spray

Skunks have glands close to the base of their tails and when they spray, they can make it up to 15 feet! This fluid ejects much like household cleaners. Either you get a strong stream or a misty spray. And when a skunk sprays, it’s accurate! Not only that but they are also charged up for five consecutive sprays. If ever you find yourself in the awful position where you’ve startled a skunk, back away slowly so that the skunk realizes you’re not a threat and you are just trying to get away. If the skunk doesn’t feel trapped, it may just go on its merry way without leaving you to remember it by its spray!

Will a Skunk Return to Where It Sprayed?

Although a skunk may retreat to a den somewhere on your property, you should know that they don’t settle into the same den site for very long. Typically, they move on after only a couple of days. Once they have left, you can seal off any access to whatever den areas they created. Unlike a criminal that returns to the scene of the crime, skunks aren’t interested in returning to any location where they sprayed. That moment is soon forgotten as it was merely a defensive tactic to give them time to find a safe place.

How Far Away Can You Smell a Skunk’s Spray?

Amazingly, a skunk spray smell can travel up to 20 miles. You might be in a completely different town smelling the result of a moment’s terror for a skunk!

What Attracts Skunks to Your Yard?

Skunks are opportunistic feeders, meaning if you have left out any pet food or you have an open garbage can outside, they may just venture on over to get some snacks. Since they like den sites during the day, you may also have spots that are perfect for them. This could be a rock pile or a wood pile or it may even be open spaces underneath sheds or decks. Ultimately, they’re looking for both food and shelter.

A skunk peers over a piece of wood

Wood piles make great den sites for skunks.

©Yasmins world/

How Do I Permanently Get Rid of Skunks?

Although stinky when afraid, skunks are generally harmless. They may even be beneficial. For instance, they snack on rodents so if there is a rodent population in your environment, you have a natural form of pest control. However, if you wish to evict these creatures from your property, there are a few humane techniques you can employ. A mild repellent could work. This could be used cat litter, for instance. You might also make their den site less habitable. However, skunks move along naturally so you may just consider waiting it out and letting them depart on their own.

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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