Seeing a lot of skunks lately in Dublin? You're not alone.
Barbara Ray, Dublin's nature-education coordinator, said she receives at least one to two calls per day for several weeks during the late summer months because weaning skunk kits are out during the day, tripling sightings of the animal's typical population.
Three out of 10 of those young skunks will survive their first year, Ray said. Most are preyed on by owls, and others get hit by cars.
But the past two years have brought an uptick in calls from residents about the skunk population, and Ray attributes that to weather and environmental changes.
"The last two years, there's kind of been a perfect storm for skunks," she said.
Rainy summers allow the ground to stay damp so worms and grubs -- food for skunks -- are more prevalent near the ground's surface, Ray said.
Mulch used in landscaping beds are havens for worms, grubs, snails and beetles. Skunks are attracted to the mulch year-round, Ray said, but more so this year because of regular rain.
Skunks also have sought out residents' backyards as they are driven out of habitats by construction in such areas as the Bridge Street district and off Hyland-Croy Road, Ray said. Anytime they experience disruption to their habitats, skunks will go into yards until they establish new habitats, she said.
Skunks dislike change, light and noise, Ray said. So residents letting dogs out into yards at night can turn lights on or add motion-detecting lights on building corners to give skunks warning. Skunks also move upon hearing human voices, she said.
Ray advises dog owners who know their animals typically bark at or approach wild animals to keep their dogs on a leash between July and September, when first going out into backyards until the area has been deemed skunk-free.
Garden fence can redirect skunks to a different path, and lawn furniture can be placed where skunks are entering and exiting the yard, Ray said.
Ray said calls about skunks typically come from residents in the Bridge Street District, the area near Brandon Park and the Riviera and Tartan housing developments as well as along Indian Run creek or the Scioto River.
Those with housing along waterways will see more skunk traffic, especially between mid-July and early October, Ray said. Animals tend to use river and stream corridors for traveling and feeding, she said.
Young skunks aren't afraid of people and might not move when they see them, Ray said.
Skunks, however, also can get sick from distemper -- a neurological disease that can be contracted by dogs that are not vaccinated. The illness can cause dogs to share behaviors typical of young skunks, Ray said.
Skunks with distemper might stumble and have limited mobility. The city will attempt to capture such sick or injured animals, she said.
Apart from the sick or injured, Ray recommends avoiding trapping and removal of skunks because the act will cause litters to increase and populations to grow. Nature studies have shown that in areas where the skunk populations have been reduced, female skunks will often deliver litters of six to eight kits -- nearly twice the normal size of a litter, she said.
Under state law, any trapped animal has to be either released on site where it was caught or it has to be destroyed, Ray said.
Adam Turpen, director of SCRAM! Wildlife Control, a service of the Ohio Wildlife Center, said SCRAM will address the cause of an animal's attraction to a particular area and then allow the animal to self-release and relocate.
Although Dublin residents can call SCRAM to pick up sick or injured animals and transport them to the Ohio Wildlife Center's Hospital free of charge, a fee is required for addressing issues with a healthy animal, Turpen said.
A skunk might use up to 12 den areas in its range so that they still will have a safe area to go if they find predators or obstructions.
SCRAM gets calls yearly from people claiming to see more skunks than the year before, there are no numbers to support this, Turpen said.
If residents provide resources for skunks -- gardens, mulch beds, uncontained compost areas, birdfeeders, cat and dog food -- they will see the animals, Turpen said.
Generally, skunks will give warning behaviors before they spray, such as charging towards an animal or human or standing on their front legs to expose their tail, Turpen said.
A mixture of Dawn dish detergent, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda works best to change the oily composition of the skunk's spray that adheres to the skin, Turpen said.
"Breaking up that oily composition is really what you want to do," Turpen said.
What doesn't work well? Tomato juice.