Spotted Skunks Dance Better Than You, Then Spray You in the Face

Practiced for hours and feeling proud of your handstands? Spotted skunk will put you utterly to shame with its elaborate dance warning any who dare approach that it’s locked, loaded, and ready to spray.


The skunks can store about 15 grams (1 tablespoon) of a noxious oil at a time, and are capable of releasing five quick sprays in rapid succession to put off aggressors. The oil is composed of a mix of thiols: (E)-2-butene-1-thiol, 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, and 2-phenylethanethiol. Once depleted, it takes about a week to resupply on their defensive stench.

A spotted skunk going into an intimidating dance to scare off aggressors caught on a wildlife camera in Happy Valley, Saguaro National Park. Image credit:

Spotted skunks are polite enough to give warning before they spray a noxious liquid on aggressors: they stamp their front feet, raise their tail, hiss, and if they’re particularly annoyed, perform this unusual hand-stand dance.

Illustration for article titled Spotted Skunks Dance Better Than You, Then Spray You in the Face

Spotted skunk ready to spray. Image credit: AnimalPhotos

If the aggressor doesn’t back off, they drop back to all four paws and bend their bodies around to point their tail at the offender. They then release an atomized spray of a stinky oil through nipples located on either side of their anus. Muscles around the glands give them good aim up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) away, so take their warning seriously!

Top image: Spotted skunk performing a warning handstand-dance. Credit: BBC/Mika McKinnon

Contact the author at or follow her at @MikaMcKinnon.


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Seneca the Younger(er)

I have a five-year-old who is obsessed with zoology. We watch this episode over and over and over and over....Damn you, Wild Kratts! Wasn’t it enough to make Zaboomafoo in the late ‘90s?