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Runner vs. Nature: Skunks Stink

July 10th, 2014

Throughout the United States, skunks are hiding in cat-sized crevasses waiting to roam the night (or if you are reading this at night, they are roaming currently). These opportunistic animals are happy hunting insects and small rodents, foraging for berries, scavenging a convenient carcass, or making a mess of your trashcan. Over time, their versatility has allowed them to thrive in virtually every condition and take on urban sprawl with little impact on their population whereas other animals have been less successful at “fitting into society”.

Skunk

Skunks can't be missed (Image: Britannic)

Where most animals use camouflage to blend in, skunks are outsiders. If squirrels listen to Coldplay, skunks listen to Rancid and dress the part. Like our neighborhood punk rock aficionados, standing out is part of their visage and lets the rest of us know that they play by a different set of rules. Where their furry friends scurry to safety at the first sign of danger, skunks are more apt to mosey on brazenly until predators prove they are serious.

Despite their prolific presence in our environment, runner-skunk encounters are rare. Still, if you run enough miles, particularly at dusk or dawn, it is likely that you will see a skunk in your running career. If you get too close, you, and your social life will be immediately impacted.

While other mammals have the ability to create a musky scent for territory marking or mating purposes only skunks have the ability to spray their musk as a projectile. As anyone with experience can attest, their musk is by far the most potent. From glands in the skunk’s rear, the offensive fluid can be sprayed up to 12 feet with a good amount of accuracy.

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