Skunk Spray: Beyond Basic Chemistry?

Basically, people know that skunks stink. And most people associate skunks with rabies…even though humans are much more likely to contract rabies from the bite of another rabid mammal, such as a bat, cat, or dog.

What would you do if you encountered a skunk while out on a casual day hike? Or what would you do if a skunk casually cruised into your campsite? If you don’t know much more about skunks beyond the above two common myths, read my article on the Survival Skills website:

“How to Survive a Skunk Encounter”

In the process of writing the article, I became more interested in what goes into a skunk’s stink. Like many other people, I originally thought that skunks spray urine, but I found out that they actually produce sulfurous chemicals containing thiols in anal scent glands. Thiols also give garlic and onions their strong odors. Go figure.

This PBS video, a portion of a longer segment on skunks, offers a brief, yet interesting explanation of the chemistry behind a skunk’s stink:


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