Northbrook reporting increase in skunks
November 25, 2004 Paddy Anderson, a keeper in the Children's Zoo of Brookfield Zoo, releases Maddy the skunk back into her exhibit after being fed a special diet she requires (she has to be fed away from the other residents). The zoo is a popular destination for families and visitors on Thanksgiving Day. Reporter Cheryl Jackson investigates what is behind the tradition. (Photo by Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times)
Updated: September 14, 2012 8:36AM
NORTHBROOK — If residents think they’ve had more than their share of ode de skunk the last few weeks, they’re right.
It’s not only the North Shore that is experiencing the pungent scent. The odor is wafting throughout the entire state, said Gina Manski, Northbrook’s animal control officer.
That is because Illinois has seen a rise in its skunk population.
“There is no specific reason as why,” Manski said. “Their only natural predator are great horned owls, which are around here, but not as many as in the past since the West Nile Virus came around.”
More complaints came in last year between February and August than this year, she said.
Complaints are on the rise now because the skunks are getting active, seeking food to fatten themselves up for winter, Manski said.
“There are always periodic complaints of dogs being sprayed, mostly in fall and in mating season, which is February,” she added. “The way to avoid this is to check the yard before letting the dog out, not only looking, but making noise as well. Skunks hear better than they see.”
Curiously, Glenview has had no more than the usual reports about skunk activity, said Judi Roseman, the village’s animal control officer.
However, those with nuisance control permits reported 8,715 skunks removed from the state in 2010, with 6,741 taken from the greater Chicago area, said Bob Bluett, a wildlife biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Last year, 11,565 were removed from the state, with 9,510 taken from the greater Chicago area, which is a notable increase, he added.
“It’s a bit of a mystery why the numbers of skunks have increased. In the early 1980s, an outbreak of rabies drove the population down,” Bluett said. “Their numbers were down for an unnaturally long time, then in 2001 and 2002 we noted that they were increasing.”
Bluett added that skunks like to live in logs and sheds, as well as and under decks and stoops.
They usually forage at night, and are most often seen at dawn and twilight.
“They are near-sighted and can’t see well, so if they move toward a person, they are probably just trying to figure out if he is a predator,” Bluett said. “They are typically not malicious, but I don’t encourage anyone to get up close to a skunk.”