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NATURE: Is That Skunk?

Airs Sunday, August 28, 2011 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

A skunk

Credit: Jerry Dragoo

Above: A skunk

We find them in the evening digging through our garbage, hiding under our houses, or walking through our yards, streets, and parks. Skunks seem perfectly adapted to life around us. But we are less comfortable around them, for fear of their potent spray. As we expand our urban areas, many skunks find themselves increasingly unwelcome neighbors. It seems everyone has their own skunk story. But what do we really know about these infamous black and white creatures?

Watch as a California town overrun with skunks deals with their furry problem, and see what life is like for an evolutionary biologist in New Mexico who runs one of the few sanctuaries for skunks. Meet a researcher on the sandy shores of Martha’s Vineyard who stalks her striped specimens at night, and a woman in Ohio who runs a shelter and adoption agency for abandoned pet skunks.

"Is That Skunk?" paints a complete portrait of the misunderstood skunk family, Mephitidae, and the people who love them. View an excerpt from the film below and watch the full program online.

Tell Us Your Skunk Tales!

Everyone seems to have a skunk story. What’s yours? Maybe you’ve been the victim of a direct hit from the dreaded spray. Or maybe you love skunks, and even keep one as a pet. We want to hear your skunk tales — positive or negative. Share your story

Video Excerpt: Nature: Is That Skunk?

Jerry Dragoo shows off some cute skunk kits. Newborn skunk babies have markings on naked skin, which will later be replaced by fur in the same pattern. Skunk kits are able to spray from birth, but the resulting chemical plume is not nearly as strong as that of an adult.

Skunk Spray Chemistry

in "Nature: Is That Skunk," Professor William Wood of Humboldt State University examined the chemical properties of skunk spray samples. He discovered several new compounds in the skunk spray, including a thiol. A thiol is a type of sulfur-based compound found in garlic and onions.

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