Apparent boom in Chicago-area skunk population

October 24, 2011 (LOMBARD, Ill.)

In Illinois last year there was a 46 percent rise in the number of skunks. As ABC7's Phil Schwarz reports, get ready, the skunk population is making a comeback.

If you've taken your dog out for a walk lately, you probably have smelled or even seen a skunk.

"They have been within 20 feet of us," said dog owner Katie Borre. "We try to cross the street as quick as possible or get away from them so that we don't get sprayed."

It is hard to believe that something with such a cute face can emit such a foul smell. Encounters with skunks are way up this year and that is keeping area trappers extremely busy.

"We've noticed about a 50 percent increase in our numbers. We serve the entire Chicagoland area," said Brandon Kulosa of Animal Trackers Wildlife Company.

The population growth is part of a prey/predator natural cycle that will likely reverse itself as competition for food increases.

It is relatively easy for humans to avoid skunks, but if your pet takes a direct hit, it is important that you take some immediate steps. Veterinarians have seen many pets sprayed by skunks.

"Flush their eyes and mouth out with copious amounts of water. The sulfur in the excretion is tough on the mucous membranes and the mouth," said Lombard Veterinary Hospital's Dr. Jason Olech.

Skunks can bring additional health concerns.

"Make sure your pets are always current on their rabies vaccine, and the thing we worry about most is heartworm disease. Skunks are one of the animals that carry heartworms," said Dr. Olech.

Scott Smith -- who has a skunk as a licensed pet -- says skunks by nature really are docile.

"They're more afraid of you. It's true. They want nothing to do with people. He would just as soon curl up and go to sleep right now. He's just laid back and not confrontational at all," said Smith.

By avoiding skunks and keeping your dog on a leash, you should be able to avoid the spray that makes the skunk so infamous.

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