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What to Do During a Skunk Encounter While Running

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Ardot lives and breathes on this planet. He shares what he likes and finds useful. He enjoys abstract art and ideas.

Running at night involves some risks, including coming across these.

Running at night involves some risks, including coming across these.

Pros of Running at Night

I started running a few years back after getting a stern talking-to from my doctor about my excessive body fat and elevated blood pressure levels. I followed Weight Watchers, and joined a gym. This subsequently led to successful, and sustained weight loss.

However, I quickly grew tired of the routine of going to a sweaty, smelly, crowded gym full of douche-bags and posers. One day, I decided to try running . . . outside!

I immediately realized how much better it was to just be outdoors. The fresh air, constantly changing scenery, and no gym membership fees! I was immediately hooked.

During my first month or so of running I still had some “baby fat” that I wasn’t too proud of. I felt self-conscious about my weight and only ran at night. Eventually, I got over that nonsense and switched to days. Daytime running had its own challenges: hot, humid, sunny days with cars, cyclists, kids, dogs, and a brutal work schedule which sapped away the best part of my day, but that’s another topic altogether. I quickly realized the advantages of nighttime running,

The lower temperature was a welcome change. Your body generates plenty of its own heat while running, enough to keep you warm and sometimes hot, even on the coldest winter days.

The reduced amount of traffic, whether it be bicycle or car, was another welcome plus.

Unless you live in a really rough section of town or in a communist dictatorship that has strict curfew rules, the outside is always there.

Cons of Night Running

There are a few disadvantages to night running: the aforementioned “bad part of town" issue and limited visibility are among them. To deal with the first problem, leave the headphones at home. This will not only let you hone your footfall and improve your running form, but will also let you be alert of your surroundings. To make yourself more visible, wear a reflective vest and blinking led lights.

Then there’s the big daddy of night running disadvantages—skunks!

The good news is that skunks are very open to negotiation. A skunk has a very unique line of defense. A pouch of nasty smelling perfume that, when sprayed on the threat, can cause burning eyes and difficulty breathing. However the skunk is not spray-happy, It takes a long time before the skunk can regenerate his fluid reserve, so it does not spray indiscriminately. Watch their body language. It will give several warning signs. The raising of the tail is the first one. With his tail raised, he is now reading your body language. At this point, you should freeze and not make any sudden moves. Then, with hands lowered, slowly back away. The tail slowly lowers, and the skunk continues on his way satisfied that you are not a threat. Success! Everyone is happy, you don't need to soak in a strong enzyme neutralizing solution such a tomato juice, or 'Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover', and the skunk gets to keep his juice.

However, If the skunk starts vocalizing and stomping its feet, he's seriously thinking about squirting. Run! If you are still standing there you must be thick headed. Enjoy your soak in a tub of tomato juice.

I’ve been running at night for about two years and have seen about three skunks. I don’t think they saw me. It is said that skunks have very poor eyesight. They are also terrible climbers.

Again, remember, the skunk does not want to spray you. A skunk will spray only as a last resort.

It will give plenty of warning before it squirts. It will hiss, chatter, and stomp its feet to try and scare you away.

At this point, human runner would be safely on his or her way as the potentially stinky confrontation is avoided.

What to do if you, or one of your pets, are sprayed by a skunk...

If you follow the above tips, you stand a fairly low chance of being sprayed by a skunk.

Who usually gets sprayed? Let us look at the behavior of a few of our fellow animal friends as an example of how not to behave around a skunk:

  • Dogs. They are just happy idiots who want to play with, or chase, balls, frisbees, sticks, and yes, small furry critters. You smell skunk?
  • Cats. They are just jackasses when it comes to dealing with other animals. Skunks don’t mess around when kitty does his hissing growling thing. There’s that skunk smell again.

When my own cat was sprayed by a skunk (see photo below) I used 'Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover' on him. It worked like a charm! It works a little like Febreeze. It contains powerful enzymes that break down and neutralize the skunk's scented oils. Then as it evaporates it carries away the odor with it. I would recommend applying the product as soon as possible. If the skunk oil stays on too long it may take significantly more time to remove the odor.

My poor kitty had to spend the whole night on the deck that night, but the following morning he smelled much better. Oh well, serves him right, he never approached a skunk again! He could probably add a few insights to this article.

Both times I saw a skunk I simply stopped approaching and walked around them. I left a very wide radius and made sure not to upset it. That’s it. I believe that is all that’s needed to come out of an encounter with a skunk literally smelling like roses.

There's my old buddy, what a great cat! He  used to hang out with me in the back yard and follow me around the neighborhood. He got sprayed by a skunk, good thing we had Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover!

There's my old buddy, what a great cat! He used to hang out with me in the back yard and follow me around the neighborhood. He got sprayed by a skunk, good thing we had Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Ardot


Jason on October 04, 2018:

I go running early in the morning when it's pitch dark on a trail that runs right through a forest that's infested with skunks! I see at least 1 skunk every morning, and at times the encounters get scary because I DO NOT WANT TO GET SPRAYED. Most of the time I find myself within 10-20 feet from them and I don't know what to do.

I really don't want to run during the day because of all of the amazing benefits of nightly runs, plus I don't want to find a different place to go.

I'm feeling a little safer now thanks to your advice.Thank you.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 09, 2017:

Informative and in detail.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on August 28, 2017:

Glad you are enjoying your night runs, and avoiding skunks too. I have heard some pretty awful stories about them and their spray. It's good to know what one should do upon encountering a skunk:)

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 27, 2017:

Great topic and full of both humor and good advice. I had a kitty get sprayed by a skunk many years ago and for days he reeked. We couldn't get the smell off no matter what.

My dad exercises at night and has run into skunks before. He takes a flashlight with him so he can see what he might be up against. He's also run into foxes, raccoons, and snakes crossing the road.