Wonder Contributors

We would like to thank Sam from Driftwood, TX for inspiring today’s revisited Wonder! Sam Wonders, “How do skunks spray?” What a great Wonder Submission, Sam! Thanks for WONDERing with us!

On a hike through the woods of Wonderopolis the other day, we overheard a beaver and a badger telling a joke about a skunk:

Beaver:           Hey Badger! Did you hear the one about the skunk?

Badger:           *sigh* No, I didn’t, but I have a feeling you’re going to tell me.

Beaver:           Why did the skunk go to school?

Badger:           I have no idea. Why did the skunk go to school?

Beaver:           For show and smell! Ha ha ha!

Badger:           Wow. That joke really stinks!

Do you agree with Badger? Did Beaver’s skunk joke really stink? Even if you liked it, there’s one thing that’s for sure: skunks can really stink.

But it’s not the skunk itself that stinks. It’s actually a special spray that the skunk can release to defend itself from predators, such as wolves, foxes and badgers.

When a skunk feels threatened, it can squirt its special spray from glands underneath its tail. Skunks can accurately hit a target from up to 10 feet away!

A skunk’s spray is made up of oily chemicals called thiols. Thiols are sulphur compounds that can cause headaches and burning or stinging in the eyes. The worst part, though, is the smell.

If you’ve ever smelled skunk spray, you know how unpleasant it is! Some people have described the smell of a skunk’s spray as a combination of rotten eggs, garlic and burnt rubber. Phew!

It’s this horrible smell that sends the strong message to predators that says, “Stay away from me!” How powerful is a skunk’s smell? Very powerful! Even large bears will avoid tiny skunks to keep from being sprayed. Unfortunately, one predator — the great horned owl — has a very poor sense of smell and is rarely deterred by a skunk’s spray.

Skunks don’t spray unless they feel threatened. Their glands only hold enough spray for five or six strikes. If they use up all their spray, it can take up to 10 days to make more. Before spraying, a skunk will usually try other ways of scaring off a predator, including hissing, stomping its feet and lifting its tail to simulate a spray attack.

If you have a pet that ever gets sprayed by a skunk, don’t fall back on old wives’ tales that tell you to give your pet a bath in tomato juice. Instead, follow these “de-skunking” instructions to use a special solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and liquid soap to clean your pet.

131 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (43 votes, avg. 4.28 out of 5)
    • We’re so, so sorry about your cat, Mr. B. :-( We know how hard it can be to lose a much-loved pet. They really do become like part of the family and it’s tough when they go. Sometimes if we’re feeling extra sad about something, we feel it helps to talk to a teacher or a grown-up about it. We hope you’ll do that today if you need to! Thank you for sharing that you liked this Wonder today!

    • That’s a really interesting guess, Mr. B.! Thanks so much for sharing it with us today! We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis tomorrow to see if your guess is correct! :-)

    • Thanks for leaving us a comment today, Syndey! You can learn why skunks stink by re-exploring today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  1. We loved the video teaching us about skunks. The man who took care of orphaned skunks must have been really nice and especially patient. They were so cute and reminded us of little puppies. We thought it was really cool that he had skunks as a pet. Is it true you can get a skunk to not stink when it sprays? What do adult skunks eat? Why are they always in garbage cans? Another fact we thought was amazing is that skunks can accurately hit a target from up to 10 feet away! That’s better than a water gun! How large can skunks get? We are also concerned as to why the male skunks eat the babies, even if they are their own!?

    Our guess for tomorrow is that it has to do with a garden. Maybe what type of vegetables grow best in different soils? Why do carrots help your eyes? Why do onions make you cry? What makes vegetables bright colors? Why are tomatoes so watery inside? What makes celery so crunchy?

    Mrs. Schrader’s 4th Grade Homeroom :)

    • WOW, you guys did some AMAZING extra WONDERing about skunks after visiting today’s Wonder together, Mrs. Schrader’s 4th Grade Homeroom! We think that ROCKS! We thought it was concerning that male skunks will eat the babies if they are left alone, too. We did some more WONDERing about that, and found that in the wild, many male animals will behave this way. Sometimes it is even to destroy any potential future competition (like with big cats). Nature is really interesting to learn about! Here is a cool link from the San Diego Zoo that might help you guys with some of your skunk questions: http://kids.sandiegozoo.org/animals/mammals/skunk.

      We REALLY like all your AWESOME guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! You guys are GREAT Wonderers! We can help you with the answer to your onion question…there’s a past Wonder of the Day® all about it: Wonder #54 – Why Do Onions Make You Cry? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-do-onions-make-us-cry/. :-)

    • We think skunks are really cute, too, Gloria! Especially those orphaned baby skunks from today’s Wonder video! We will admire them from a great distance though! :-)

  2. It was interesting that the male skunks would want to hurt their babies. We liked learning about the coloring of the males and females. Also, we thought it was interesting that the babies don’t open their eyes until 4 weeks after they’re born. The baby skunks were really cute! We would love to have one (if only they weren’t so stinky)!

    • Thank you so much for sharing all the WONDERful facts you guys learned about skunks by exploring today’s Wonder together, Mrs. Secker’s Class! We really appreciate your comment today and are SUPER glad you guys stopped by Wonderopolis! :-)

  3. We loved reading about skunks in the library today. There are lots of skunks near where we all live.

    • We think skunks are fun to WONDER about, Mrs. Acree’s class, and we’re glad you guys think that, too! Thank you for sharing that you got to visit the library today…HOW COOL! We hope you all have a WONDERful day! :-)

  4. I liked this wonder. My dog died last year. It was very had for all of us because we had him since he was a week old to 12 years old. It was very sad for everyone. :(

    • Thank you for sharing about your dog today, “Wonder.” We’re super sorry you lost him last year. It can be a hard thing to deal with when you lose a pet. We think it’s good to talk to a grown-up about things like this if we find ourselves feeling extra sad. We really appreciate you telling all your friends in Wonderopolis about him. :-(

    • We think dogs might get “skunked” because the are super inquisitive animals, “Wonder!” They sniff around because they WONDER about the world a lot, and sometimes they WONDER in the wrong places and disturb a skunk! :-)

  5. Lots of us have smelled skunk spray. One of our students had two pet skunks. Some of us also don’t think the smell is too smelly, but others know it is overpowering. Tomorrow’s wonder might be: Are tomatoes fruits or vegetables, but we could use another hint. The video was very cute and we thought they skunks were adorable. See you tomorrow! KEEP WONDERING!

    • What a WONDERful comment you guys left for us today, Mr. Draper’s Class! We think it was really interesting to learn that some of you guys don’t think a skunk smell is too smelly. We will have to have an open Wonder mind the next time we smell a skunk and consider if we REALLY think it stinks, or if we could live with the smell. Thanks for making US WONDER a bit more today, too! :-)

      We really like your guess about tomorrow’s Wonder. Did you know there is already an AWESOME Wonder that helps us learn about tasty tomatoes? It’s Wonder #253 – Are Tomatoes Fruits or Vegetables? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-tomatoes-fruits-or-vegetables/. :-)

      Oh, and here’s a little extra hint about tomorrow: Be sure to EAT your veggies! :-)

  6. Hi Wonderopolis this is our last Wonder of the Day in third grade. We have enjoyed Synthesizing this year with the wonders. Thank you for expanding our knowledge.
    Mrs. Fogel’s Class

    • We hope you and your students have a WONDERful summer, Mrs. Fogel! Be sure to visit Wonderopolis during the “non-school” months, too! We’ll be having some SUPER SPECIAL events and summertime Wonder FUN! We are proud of you guys for working so hard this year and appreciate that you included visits to Wonderopolis in your learning time! You guys ROCK! :-)

    • That’s a great question, Brayan! We think the man in the video meant that the baby skunks don’t have the full amount of chemicals in their bodies yet to make the really powerful “skunk” smell when protecting themselves. They have just enough to make a gassy kind of “poof” instead of a stream of chemicals. We appreciate you WONDERing more about skunks after exploring today’s Wonder…that’s AWESOME! :-)

    • Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day® and sharing about your pet skunk, LuLu Belle! We really like her name! :-)

  7. We loved the wonder of the day today! Our guess was correct!! We have a few wonders after reading the information and watching the video about skunks. Where does the oil come from that causes the smell? How is it made inside the skunk? If a skunk can spray accurately up to 10 feet, how long can it actually spray? We also want to know how long it takes for a smell to wear off on a predator?

    We are a little a “skunked” on guessing for tomorrow, but we do have a thought…maybe it has something to do with a garden?

    Mrs. Schrader’s Switch Class

    • Those are all WONDERful Wonders you have about skunks, Mrs. Schrader’s Switch Class! We’re not sure about the answers for all of them…maybe we can BOTH do a bit more exploring to find them out? One of the really cool things about Wonderopolis is that we get to learn a little bit about something we may have WONDERed about before, but then we can take that new knowledge and let it guide us in more WONDERing on our own!

      We hope you will go on a Wonder Quest to find out more about the AMAZING Wonders you have related to skunks! Maybe you can even share what you find out with everyone here in Wonderopolis…we love learning new things, too!

      Tomorrow’s Wonder just might have something to do with a garden, but it also might have something to do with the kitchen and the dining room, too! We’ll have to wait and see (we’re super excited to find out!)! :-)

    • Skunks really ARE cute, Linna! Thank you for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today and letting us know how you feel about skunks! :-)

  8. We think tomorrow’s wonder might about gardens or salads.

    We think skunks stink, but your joke didn’t! We liked the joke and can’t wait to share it!

    • Yes, Miss Kirsten’s Kindergarten GT Class, a few of our AWESOME Wonder Friends DO like to joke around sometimes. We appreciate their sense of humor, too! Thanks for stopping by today’s Wonder of the Day® and letting us know what you think tomorrow’s Wonder might be about, as well! We think your guess is GREAT! :-)

  9. How old does a baby skunk have to be before it can leave its mother?

    How old are skunks when they can spray?

    • We agree, KF Dragons friends, Gretchen and Liam! SKUNKS ARE CUTE! The baby ones in today’s Wonder video were especially cute (so cute that we might even excuse their future smelliness). We hope you guys have had a SUPER Thursday so far! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know, Van Dyk #3! Guess what? We checked with the Wonderopolis postmaster yesterday and he said we haven’t received any black hole letters from our Wonder Friends yet. We will keep an eye out for yours…we can’t wait until it arrives! :-)

  10. Wow, that was so cute, but when they get older, they smell so bad. I do not want one of my own.

    your wonder friend, alikah

    • We really appreciate your comment today, Alikah! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about skunks! We think the babies are super cute, too! :-)

    • Last time I checked, you can go to the vet and get your pet skunks thing that makes it stink removed when it’s a baby, then you can have it like a regular pet! :)

    • We know a few Wonder Friends who have skunks as pets, Van Dyk #3! We asked them if they were smelly, and they said the ones they have as pets don’t have the ability to spray their stinky spray. We WONDER what having a skunk for a pet would be like? :-)

    • Thanks for your comment today, Julia! We liked reading it and learning that you don’t want to get anywhere near a spraying skunk! Have a WONDERful rest of the day! :-)

    • We think it’s AWESOME that your family is WONDERing together, Caelah, Elijah and Gabriel! Thanks for stopping by today’s Wonder and letting us know you liked it, guys! Caelah…THANKS for sharing Wonderopolis with your brothers! YOU ROCK! :-)

  11. I LOVED today’s wonder. The skunks were so cute. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about farmers. I use to live on a farm.

    p.s. Does Rahul ever stop going here?

    • How cool that you used to live on a farm, Kristin! It must have been a GREAT experience to watch things grow and get to help take care of the plants and animals! Thanks for sharing that wit us today!

      P.S. Rahul is an AWESOME Wonder Friend! We hope he (and all of our other Wonder Friends) keep stopping by and sharing comments with us! :-)

  12. So if you get sprayed by a skunk, just take a regular bath with special soup instead of using tomatoes to take a bath? This was a cool wonder!

    I think tommorow’s might be about brain freezes (once I got 7 brain freezes in a row!), summer, or ingrown toenails. I think I have an ingrown toenail right know. I am gonna check with my mom and ask her to cut it before it digs into my skin. OUCH!

    I hope tommorow’s wonder is about sweet, fluffy kitty cats.

    • Thanks for leaving us such an interesting comment today, Maddie! We hope we don’t ever get sprayed by a skunk, but if we do, we will try that special soap! It sounds like it just might work!

      Thanks for sharing that you think tomorrow’s Wonder might be about summer, cats, ingrown toenails or brain freezes. We think ALL of those things would be FUN to Wonder about! Did you know there is already a Wonder of the Day® about brain freezes? It’s past Wonder #92 – Why Do You Get Ice Cream Headaches? Here is a link that will take you right to it: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-do-you-get-ice-cream-headaches/. :-)

    • Way to go, Emilie! We’re glad your guess was correct! We also thought it was a LOT of FUN to WONDER about skunks with our Wonder Friends (like YOU!) today! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your personal connection to today’s Wonder, Anissa! We hope you guys didn’t have to smell that stinky skunk smell for very long! We really like your guess about tomorrow’s Wonder…it’s AWESOME! :-)

    • Thank you for sharing more about your dog today, “Wonder.” We’re really sorry for your family’s loss. We bet he was a GREAT pet! :-(

  13. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Our class enjoyed watching and finding out about Skunks. We had some great discussions.


    • It makes us SUPER happy to hear that, 1/2 Volkwyn! We’re glad you guys visited today’s Wonder of the Day® about skunks together and did some extra WONDERing and talking about it afterwards! Thank you for sharing your comment with us…we hope you have had a WONDERful day! :-)

    • They really WERE super cute, TSN! Thanks for visiting this Wonder of the Day®…we’re super happy that you shared the Wonder video with your mom! We like it when we hear about families learning together in Wonderopolis! :-)

  14. Just to question…’til what time do you answer wonders and how much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?

    • What a super nice comment, Zac! We’re glad you like learning in Wonderopolis…we do, too! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

  15. I don’t like skunks when they spray, but they are cute when they are babies. I think there are a lot of replies here today.

    • We were happy to receive so many comments from our Wonder Friends (like YOU!) on this Wonder about skunks, Cassidy! Thanks for leaving us one today, too! YOU ROCK! :-)

    • We’re not exactly sure, but we think it’s just like an adult skunk, Aliya! The difference is that baby skunks don’t have enough smelly chemicals built up to actually “spray.” They have more of a “poof” of smelly air until their bodies develop more fully! :-)

  16. Skunks are very beautiful. Did you know that honey badgers are just like skunks? The honey badger is the cousin of the skunk. They have the pattern just like a skunk and they spray out a bad odor. The only difference between them is the honey badger growls a lot.

    • We really appreciate you adding something extra AWESOME to this Wonder of the Day® by sharing your knowledge about honey badgers, Julie! Thanks so much for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

  17. We thought the baby skunks were really cute and when we saw the BABY skunks it made us realize skunks were kinda cute and if they weren’t so stinky, we would want one for a pet! All the stuff is very cool and interesting. The baby skunks are really cute. You have really cool facts and interesting videos. The skunks are very cute and beautiful, we wish we had one if they didn’t spray stuff! The baby skunks were cute a lot. I wish I had one even though they spray.

    love, the Pincus and the Shapiro girls

    • WOW! What a SUPER, AWESOME, AMAZING comment you left for us today, Pincus and Shapiro girls! We liked it a LOT! Thank you for sharing all your thoughts about this Wonder and the baby skunks in the video. We really appreciate all the nice things you said about Wonderopolis, too! You girls ROCK! :-)

    • Hey there, Carlie and Jordyn! Thank you BOTH for checking out this Wonder of the Day® and for leaving us such a super nice comment! We hope you guys learned some cool stuff about skunks…we know we sure did! :-)

  18. Mmm, mmm, mmm. The best smell I smelled, or the worst, is beautiful vanilla and orange, the worst are garbage mountain, rotten eggs, and mostly cinnamon candles.

    • Hi there, Carlos! We think garbage piles and rotten eggs smell really bad, too! Vanilla and orange smells are AWESOME! Thanks for sharing your favorite and worst smells with us…we appreciate your comment! :-)

  19. This wonder was very interesting. I did not know that much about skunks and now I do, thanks for having a Wonder about skunks! :)

    • They sure are interesting creatures, Fitz! We are so glad you enjoyed learning about those striped animals– thanks for posting your AWESOME comment for all of us at Wonderopolis! We can’t wait to Wonder with you again!! :)

    • You did a SUPER job, Troy J! Thanks for sharing your very own Wonder so we could share it with many more Wonder Friends! We are also happy to see that a lot of us have been WONDERing about why skunks stink! Thanks for being a SUPER friend, Troy J! :)

    • Oh boy, we sure hope your pet skunk doesn’t feel threatened, Henry! If your new skunk feels at home, we don’t think it will be inclined to let out a stinky spray! We bet you and an adult or a parent can figure out a great way to solve this issue! Thanks for WONDERing about skunks with us! :)

    • Great question, Tamzin! We WONDERed about skunks and their defense mechanisms– which includes spraying a super-smelly scent! When skunks feel threatened, they spray! You can learn more about this by reading our stinky Wonder! :)

  20. Ewwww! I hate skunks! They stink! I remember I was in the car one day while my dad was asleep and there was a skunk that stank so bad that it woke him up!

    • P.U. Lashonda, skunks sure do STINK! It’s crazy that our noses, and the smells around us, can wake us up from a nap! It sounds like your dad was woken up from a rest because of a skunk on the road. YIKES! We Wonder if you can think of any other animals who know how to leave their mark? :)

      • P.U. is right! They sure do stink! I don’t know of any other animal that can leave their mark like a skunk. I don’t know any other animal that I can recognize right away by smelling it and I definitely don’t know any other animal that stinks so bad that it can wake you up! I have a question about skunks that I’d like to ask you, but I’m afraid that it might be too gross!

        • Hey there, Lashonda! Skunks sure know how to make their presence known! There is another animal called the tamandua? We hear the tamandua is very good at letting other animals, especially its predator, the jaguar, by sending out a stinky scent! We hope we never have to smell this scent! Check out this link from the San Diego Zoo for more information! :) http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-tamandua.html

          • Happy WONDERing, Lashonda! We love learning something new everyday! Thanks for being a great Wonder Friend! :)

    • They sure do stink, don’t they, Michelle? While we don’t like smelling skunks, we loved WONDERing about how they use that smell to keep predators away! What a cool defense mechanism! Thanks for sharing your comment and WONDERing with us today! :)

  21. I think it’s because it’s a gas that’s stored inside of the skunks body, and is a way to show it’s scared, or to get rid of predators because if you don’t know your predators, you won’t last in the wild for 2 seconds.

  22. If the spray that skunks spray hit your eyes can they permanently be damaged and how does tomato soup help the stink : ) : /

    • Great Questions, Destiny! Since the spray is a chemical, we think there is a possibility that it could cause damage. Actually, using tomato soup to get rid of the smell is an old wives tale. It doesn’t actually work. Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

  23. Is it a genetic gene that tell the skunk to spray, or is it just a opinion or it just want to do it. Does it spray automatically when preditor come or sneak up?

    • We can always count on you to ask some SUPER questions, Sian Pi! The skunk spraying is part of who the skunk is. According to the Wonder skunks will try other things to scare off a predator, so it isn’t automatic. Thanks for WONDERing with us again today! :)

    • Thanks for making our day here in Wonderopolis with your really COOL comment, Sheza! We’re happy to hear you learned a lot! You ROCK! :)

  24. Actually I kind of enjoy the smell of skunks just because of how strong it is, but I would not want to smell like that all day.

    • That’s very interesting, Jabin B! We WONDER if you’d enjoy being a zookeeper — with your special sniffer you may not mind the smells of lots of different animals! :D

  25. Hi I don’t really think skunks stink either btw on lps there is a skunk called pepper and the other pets over react when she sprays

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do skunks stink?
  • Why do skunks spray?
  • How far can a skunk spray?

Wonder Gallery

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-young-skunk-pair-skunks-playing-old-tree-root-summer-wisconsin-image31927239skunk customhttp://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-striped-skunk-mephitis-mephitis-image3687254http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-black-bear-cub-threatens-striped-skunk-motion-blur-image652254Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Phew! Somebody open a window! Although today’s Wonder of the Day might really stink, we hope you’ll continue to explore today’s subject by checking out one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Even though skunks might be really stinky, they can still be really cute, too. Check out this cool Skunk Photo Gallery to see pictures of skunks people keep as pets. Would you want to have a pet skunk? Why or why not? Which of the skunks do you think are cute?
  • Enough talk about things that stink. Let’s focus on some things that smell good. What are some of your favorite smells? Are there any smells that you associate with good memories? Read through the list of smells described below. If you use your imagination, can you “smell” them in your mind? What thoughts do you have when you think about these smells? For each smell, think of a word or phrase that comes to mind:
    • bacon frying in a pan
    • a hot pepperoni pizza fresh out of the oven
    • warm sheets just removed from a dryer
    • roses blooming in the springtime
    • the air after a thunderstorm

What is your favorite smell in the entire world? Share your favorite smell with your Wonder Friends by posting about it on Facebook. Be sure to tell everyone WHY that smell is your favorite!

  • Up for a challenge? Did you know that skunks aren’t the only creatures that really stink? Read more about The Seven Smelliest Creatures in the World online. Choose one of the other creatures on this list and do some research to learn more about it. If you can, put together a short report, complete with photographs, videos, and interesting facts, that you can share with your friends and family members. Have fun stinking it up!

Still Wondering

Explore Science NetLinks’ My Senses interactive to learn more about your five senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling and tasting.

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Wonder What’s Next?

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