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Skunk Smell

October 4, 2018

A listener wants to know if skunks are repelled by their own smell.



Skunk vs skunk. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Pepé LePew clip] The cartoon skunk Pepé LePew was oblivious to his own stink, and listener Arthur Magida wonders whether skunks in general are immune. We asked University of New Mexico skunk researcher Jerry Dragoo. He says that skunks and other members of the order Carnivora, including dogs, don’t seem to mind the smell. But they are still repelled because the spray is an irritant.

JERRY DRAGOO (University of New Mexico):

If one skunk gets sprayed by another one, and it hits him in the face, gets him in the eyes, they do go through a lot of the typical behaviors you could see a dog do, you know, rub their face in the dirt, put their paws up to their face and rub it a little bit, so they are definitely affected by it when another animal sprays them.


If you have a science question, give us a call at 1-800-WHY-ISIT. Or email us from our website, science update dot com. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon