By Mark W. Danielson
It may be snowing in the northern US, but it’s springtime here in Texas. Normally wildflowers announce this time of year, but our continued drought has delayed the annual highway tapestry. What we do have is plenty of road kill, and for whatever reason, dead skunks are everywhere. At the rate they are being squashed, you’d think they’d be nearing extinction.
Of course, skunk road kill isn’t limited to Texas. You’ll find them everywhere in the US, and nearly all are found lying near a stripe. Remember the “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” song? There’s a reason that song was written, and while its lyrics mention other road kill, the skunk takes top billing by revengefully stinking its way to Heaven.
So, why is it these cute critters seem find so many car bumpers? Experts say it’s because they dine on road kill, but I have a different theory. Skunks have poor eyesight and I think they’re attracted to stripes. I know this because I’ve witnessed numerous live skunks walking roads and taxiways as if the stripes were their Yellow Brick Road. Of course, being black, all that drivers may see is their reflecting eyes, and by then it may be too late. Imagine how hitting a skunk will skink up your car and garage. Like tornados, it’s best to avoid them.
Now, before you wish skunks were never born, here are a few fun facts about them. Their developed claws help them dig and catch food such as mice, moles, voles, rats, birds and their eggs, and rip apart road kill carcasses. They also like grasshoppers, wasps, bees, crickets, beetles and beetle larvae, fruits, nuts, garden crops, birdseed, pet food and scavenge on garbage. They roll caterpillars to remove the hairs before eating them, and roll beetles with defensive scents to deplete the scent before they eat it. Like bees, they won’t bother you unless threatened. When you see skunks IN this way, they’re actually beneficial critters.
So while you’re celebrating Saint Patty’s Day or any other day, keep your head on a swivel and give them a brake. Oh, did I mention there are four to five in each litter and they are full grown in five months? Yes, it looks like they’ll be around a while longer.