Skunk Defensive Secretion

Neutralize Skunk Spray: History and Chemistry of Skunk Musk

William F. Wood, Department of Chemistry
Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA 95521
Phone (707) 826-3109

Skunks use a highly odoriferous secretion to deter predation: A yellow oil composed of thiols and thioacetate derivatives of these thiols. This secretion is stored in two walnut sized glands with openings in the anus. When alarmed or attacked, a skunk can direct this spray several feet. At high concentrations the secretion causes nausea and retching and will act like tear gas if the liquid gets in the eyes. At lower concentrations it has a very foul odor. The human nose can detect skunk spray thiols at about 10 parts per billion. More information about skunk spray can be found in the following links.

  • How to remove skunk odor. Household chemicals that neutralize the odor of the defensive chemical from pets and from inanimate objects.
  • Chemistry of skunk spray. A chemical explanation of the molecules in skunk defensive secretion and their transformation to non-odoriferous molecules.
  • The History of Skunk Defensive Secretion Research. A review of the history and chemistry of research on skunk spray.
  • Skunk Pictures. Several pictures of skunks.
  • Living with skunks. Examples of coexisting with wild skunks and how to make them move to a new home.
  • Dragoo Wild Skunk Information. Biological information on skunks.
  • Photographs of striped skunk and defensive secretion

    by William Wood, © 1999. Updated on 21 June 2010.

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