Skunks have distinct characteristics that make them easily identifiable. They are members of the weasel family, Mustelidae, and share some of the same attributes with their musky scent and well-developed scent glands. The skunk discharges a powerful sulfuric spray from their anal glands, which can travel as far as a mile.
They use their spray to defend themselves, but only as a last resort. This is because they have a limited supply (15cc of the body chemicals) lasting up to 8 sprays. So once the spray is used, it can take up to a week to replenish the skunk’s supply.
This is one of three types of sprays that they use. They use the second type during mating season. This spray has a concentrated smell that is much more concentrated because the oils may have started to ferment inside their bodies during their hibernation period.
It can smell like rotting cabbage or sauerkraut and rotting garlic. Unfortunately, many people have become overcome by this smell, which caused them to experience nausea and/or vomiting. The third type is much more concentrated than the second type.
For example, skunks may decide to spray the foundation of a house to mark its territory during mating season. Often, the homeowner will catch a whiff of the smell and mistake it for a natural gas leak, electrical fire, or a burning tire. When that happens, a professional must be called to determine where the spray occurred and neutralize the odor.
What kinds of animals are similar to a skunk? The number is surprising, and the types of creatures vary from mammals to insects. Read on to learn more!
1. Musk Oxen
Musk oxen have large horns, which they use as weapons in fights with other animals. The males will fight over females during the rutting season, urinating to mark their territory. This urine contains a strong-smelling musk odor that permeates the area where they spray and their underbelly fur.
Bats also produce an unpleasant smell when they fly at night. In addition, some bats emit a pungent odor called “musth” when they’re about to mate. The musth smells like rotten eggs and comes out of their noses and mouths.
Wolves are known for their aggressive nature and often chase down prey using their sense of smell. They release a foul-smelling liquid from their nose and mouth when they do so. In addition, their saliva contains a chemical that causes the prey animal to panic.
Ants also secrete a chemical that smells like ammonia. It’s believed to be a form of alarm pheromone used to warn others of danger.
While foxes have many sacs and glands that excrete odors, they are not used as a defense mechanism. Instead, they use their scents as a form of communication or individuality and to mask themselves. Their scent glands are located in their skin, in their mouths, and around their anus.
The ones near the anus give off an unpleasant musky odor. They have a scent gland near the base of their tail, called the violet gland. Although it has a musky floral scent, it is not a pleasant smell to humans.
They use these glands and the chemicals from their urine to mark their territories and items and where their food is buried. They also use marking to show status.
Millipedes are often found in the same places as skunks, such as woodpiles or compost piles. Their stench can be quite pungent. Like the skunk, they release a smelly liquid that repels their predators. You want to watch out for two species: the Apheloria virginiensis and the Narceus americanus.
The Apheloria’s spray emits an odor that is similar to cherry cola. While that’s a pleasant smell, the cyanide is not so pleasant. The spray from the Narceus can stain your clothes and hands.
Vultures are carrion feeders that prevent spreading potentially dangerous bacteria that dead animal carcasses might carry. When they feel threatened, they vomit whatever they’ve eaten. The stench of their vomit chases predators away.
If their aim is good and the vomit gets into the predator’s face, they can fly to safety.
Popular folklore has taught many people that opossums are great actors who know how to play dead to avoid being eaten by their predators. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When confronted by a predator, an opossum may experience a severe anxiety attack, which causes him to go into a comatose state.
Then, their bodies seize up, and they flop to the ground, where they can lay for hours, unmoving and staring at nothing. This condition can last for hours. Another involuntary reaction is anal secretion, which happens when the opossum goes into a comatose state.
The putrid secretion smells like a decaying body. If the predator is still around, it will think that the opossum is dead and move on to hunt for another food source.
9. Striped Polecat
The striped polecat is a member of the weasel family and resembles a skunk with its stripes. Another similarity is the foul-smelling spray that it aims at its predators to ward them off. Like the skunk’s spray odor, the polecat’s odor can travel up to half a mile away.
Porcupines are also known for their smell. They secrete an oily substance from glands on their back end to warn potential predators that they’ve raised their quills. It smells like rotten meat.
During the mating season, males use specific urine to attract potential mates. Once the male attracts a female, he urinates on her as part of their mating ritual.
11. Stink Birds
Also called the Hoatzin, the stink bird is a South American bird that lives in the Orinoco Delta and the Amazon region. Its diet consists almost exclusively of leaves. The bird utilizes its bacterial fermentation to break down the leaves in their gut.
The combination of the aromatic leaf compounds and fermentation produces a nasty manure-like smell that wards off many would-be predators.
12. Tasmanian Devils
When threatened, the Tasmanian Devil will spray a noxious gas at their predators to chase them off. The pungency of this smell is said to rival that of the skunk.
13. Lesser Anteaters
One of the stinkiest animals in the animal kingdom, the lesser anteater outdoes a skunk by up to seven times! If their stench doesn’t deter a predator, their dragon claws will. They live in the higher elevations of South and Central America.
14. Big Bull Elephants
During the mating season, the male African Elephant’s testosterone levels rise 60 times higher than their normal level. Its potent stench helps it mark its territory and attract female elephants. The rest of the animal kingdom (humans included) has to tolerate the smell of the hormone-laden urine . . . up to 80 gallons of the stuff every day until the bull’s testosterone levels even out.
Wolverines are rarely seen, but you can smell them if they have marked their territory. Their spray has similar odor properties of the skunk’s, which has earned them the nickname “skunk bear.”
16. Bombardier Beetles
The bombardier beetle defends itself by heating its body and firing a mixture of hot hydrogen peroxide, hydroquinone, and enzymes to create a boiling, stinky liquid that will chase off even the fiercest predator.
While the sloth doesn’t spray at its predators (It’s too lazy and doesn’t have any spray), it has plenty of mold and algae growing on its fur. A single sloth carries up to 120 months and 980 sloth beetles. Three different species of mites inhabit the sloth’s rectum.
18. Stink Bugs
Originally from China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, the Stink Bug was accidentally brought to the United States and is now a part of the American ecology system. When threatened, they excrete a smelly chemical from the glands on their abdomen. Some species can spray the chemical several inches!
19. Sea Hares
The sea hare is considered the Skunk of the Sea. When threatened, it unleashes toxic purple emissions that can paralyze the nose nerves of its predators. However, the gas isn’t their only defense mechanism.
They are also filled with poison, which can severely harm humans if the soft-shell mollusk is eaten.
20. Hoopoe Birds
The Hoopoe lives throughout Eurasia and Africa and doesn’t stink 24-7. Just during the breeding season, when the female mates or incubates her eggs. Then, her chemically modified “preen gland” produces a liquid that smells like rotten meat, which she spreads all over her feathers.
Her young (both sexes) also have these modified glands and defecate explosively on unwanted visitors.
21. King Ratsnakes
Known in Asia as the “stinking goddess,” the king ratsnake is equipped with post-anal glands that open to empty the digested remains of other snakes, including the Chinese cobra. It then covers the area with a foul-smelling secretion.
Crocodiles release a noxious fluid from glands near their eyes and nostrils when threatened. This fluid contains an enzyme called “crotoxin,” which is highly poisonous.
When threatened, rattlesnakes produce a thick mucus that looks like blood. It’s actually a combination of saliva, bile, and venom. If this is sprayed directly into your face, it could cause blindness or death.
24. Giant Ants
The Giant ant is one of the few insects that can spray. When threatened, the ants use their powerful mandibles to fire a sticky substance that sticks to whatever it hits.
These creepy crawlers don’t just eat bugs; they eat other arthropods as well. When threatened, they shoot out a pungent liquid containing formic acid.
26. Wasp Nests
Wasp nests are covered in a thick layer of feces and urine. When disturbed, the nest emits a strong odor that repels would-be intruders.
This fish has a nasty habit of spraying a noxious cloud of water mixed with digestive fluids and stomach acids. This may look cool, but it makes for a very unpleasant experience.
28. Puffer Fish
Puffers release a cloud of hydrogen sulfide, which is highly toxic when threatened.
When tarantulas feel threatened, they secrete a mixture of ammonia and uric acid. These chemicals are used to deter predators.
When threatened, Moths release a noxious vapor that causes dizziness and nausea.
When threatened, snails eject a slimy substance that smells awful and can irritate the skin. In addition, their shells contain a toxin that can be fatal if ingested.
The earwig is a small, dark, nocturnal insect found throughout the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Australia. When threatened, it squirts a smelly yellow-colored liquid from its scent glands. Its predators are toads, frogs, and beetles.
The pangolin is found mainly in Africa and Asia. Their bodies are covered with impenetrable armored scales, which they use as a shield. When that doesn’t work, or the predator catches them off guard, they’ll secrete a chemical from their anal gland that is similar to a skunk’s spray.
They also use this chemical to mark their territory.
34. Domestic Cats
Unlike wild animals, who spray in self-defense, the domestic cat sprays when he feels angry or stressed. He’ll also spray to mark his territory or announce his sexual availability. During the mating period, the testosterone level makes his urine 10 times stinkier.
The smell will cling to whatever he sprays on, whether it’s a fence, a house, or your favorite slippers. If you don’t catch him in the act of peeing and cleaning up his mess right away, the urine chemicals will leave a permanent smell and stain.