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Skunk — Mephitis mephitis.

Wake up at two o’clock in the morning to a less-than-pleasant scent wafting through your bedroom window on a warm summer night, and it all becomes clear: a skunk is near. Found throughout much of the country, these night-loving, housecat-sized mammals sport black fur and distinctive lateral white stripes running down their backs. Skunks have a way of making their presence known; the eight-pound animals are infamous for an unforgettable first line of self-defense — spraying a nauseating musk from glands near their tail when they feel threatened.

Just try removing that smell through countless rounds of bathing in tomato juice, vinegar and other home remedies after your family pet’s experienced a close encounter, and you will agree that they can be a nuisance. Odor issues aside, skunks present problems when their choice of homes conflict with yours. Dormant only during the coldest part of the Michigan winter, skunks enjoy equally plant and animal food, not to mention the available garbage can. That means they can enjoy your hospitality almost year-round by burrowing under porches and buildings, or entering foundation openings.

More importantly, skunks can pose a real health threat to your family, as they have been known to carry rabies. Take special care to avoid any skunks displaying unusual behavior, like activity during daylight hours.

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