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‘Skunk Whisperer’ talks about white skunks, how to de-skunk your pet

This mostly white skunk was spotted recently on Robert LaPlaine’s deck in Jamesville.

Bill Howe knows skunks. Some have called him a “skunk whisperer,” he said.

“I’ve only been sprayed once. That’s because I talk to them and calm them down before getting them a cage and covering them up,” said the 85-year-old Cortland resident.

For the past 35 years, Howe has been capturing them live in cages and either releasing them elsewhere or euthanizing them, depending on the situation. Apart from his job, he has trapped skunks during the state trapping season and sold their furs for personal profit. He’s slowed down this past year, though, citing health reasons.

Monday, a story on syracuse.com about a nearly all-white skunk spotted in Skaneateles sparked a flurry of comments from readers. Despite what some said, all-white or albino skunks are “few and far between. They’re not a common occurrence,” Howe said.

Howe said most of the skunks out there are more black than white.

The average Central New York striped skunk, he said, is more black than white. However, he does concede that there seems to be an increase the past few years in skunks that are more white than black on the local landscape.

“The one’s with a mostly white pelt are worth a few dollars more,” he said, adding the fur market changes yearly and currently the typical skunk pelt goes for about $5. “Actually skunk is a very good fur. The word skunk, though, scares some people away. It’s like the word snake. People shy away because of the word.”

Howe claims to have come up years ago with an effective liquid solution to de-skunking a pet (or one’s self) after getting sprayed by a skunk. “I figured it out long before it got all over the internet, “he said.

The de-skunking formula includes peroxide, baking soda and Dawn dishwashing liquid. “It works. Just don’t get it in your eyes or around (or in) your mouth,” he said.

How many skunks has Howe handled over the years? “Oh Lord, I wouldn’t care to guess – a lot of them,” he said.

Some comments by readers to Monday’s story noted a skunk won’t spray if one picks it up by the tail, or if it’s an all-white color.

Not true, Howe said. “If a skunk is old enough to be out walking around, it’s old enough to spray – no matter what color it is. And don’t try picking one up by the tail, either. “

SKUNK TALES:
(The following readers sent in their stories concerning all-white/albino skunks, or nearly all white ones.)

“We see this mama skunk from time to time hanging around our back deck. Her markings are interesting with all the white on her upper half. The best part was when she came down the hillside earlier this years with four little ones in tow – all with the same distinctive markings.”

-Robert LaPlaine, Jamesville

“There are MANY mostly white skunks in New York, as well as albino versions. The one in your article is not albino. It simply has mostly white fur.

“Back in the 80s I used to trap as a hobby. (I’d never kill an animal again) While getting ready to head out to check my traps, I almost stepped on a BROWN and white skunk in my driveway in North Syracuse. This guy was definitely brown, with no black coloring at all.”

Brad Bangson, North Syracuse

“White skunks are more common than you think. I’ve seen quite a few over the years. They usually have some black on the bottom of them. When I was a kid, there was actually an albino squirrel around my parent’s house. I tried trapping it to have it stuffed. It was the one of the coolest thing I ever saw when I was 12 years old. I still think about it to this day.”

Matt Paddock, Skaneateles

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‘Skunk Whisperer’ talks about white skunks, how to de-skunk your pet This mostly white skunk was spotted recently on Robert LaPlaine’s deck in Jamesville. Bill Howe knows skunks. Some have