With Valentine's Day on the horizon, Sacramento residents are getting a pungent reminder that "love stinks" as skunks invade backyards and public parks during their annual mating season.
"They're having a field day," said Steve Andert, an animal trapper at Creature Catchers. "Every piece of equipment I have right now is dedicated toward [picking] up skunks."
The smelly problem peaks at the beginning of the new year with the start of the skunk's two-month mating season. While skunks are normally nocturnal animals that favor burrows, when they search for mates above ground they often wander into residential territory.
As a result, Andert said, schools, parks and homes in the California capital have been plagued by the white-striped animals. In a few extreme cases, he has seen people driven out of their homes after a skunk sprayed the area or burrowed into the building itself.
Ned Bruha, of Animal Network's "Ned Bruha: Skunk Whisperer," said that people can protect themselves by keeping water, pet food and garbage out of skunk reach.
"All a skunk wants is food, water, shelter and this time of [year] sex," said Bruha, who recommends feeding pets inside and keeping garbage bags in lidded cans. "You can't blame them for trying."
Dave Sacks, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said that Wildlife Control can often resolve residential skunk problems over the phone by instructing residents to make their home less enticing to the invaders.
"For the most part if you get rid of the attractant, they'll go somewhere else," said Sacks.
While Sacramento residents are currently handling the influx of skunks, Bruha, who operates out of Oklahoma, said the timing of the mating cycle is a more important factor than region in the rise of skunk invasions.
"[It's] from coast to coast," said Bruha. "Skunks come out to play this time of year. You can set the clock by it."
While getting sprayed by a skunk is many people's worst nightmare when dealing with the animals, Bruha said a simple concoction of baking soda, dish soap and peroxide works better than a cold tomato bath in getting rid of the smell.
"The skunk has a lot of bad PR," said Bruha, who specializes in human wildlife control and prevention. "[But it's] just a cat that can stink."