Move over, Rod Blagojevich. You’ve got company.
Biologists and pest control operators say they’ve never seen as many skunks in Illinois as they have this year, and that’s not even counting the infamous politicians often associated with the Windy City.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports there are biological explanations for the explosion in the state’s skunk population, and why things are especially stinky in the Chicago metro area.
First, the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) has no natural predators—unless you count motorists—so there’s nothing to keep their populations in check, except disease. Skunk populations in the Midwest are especially prone to rabies, which traditionally keeps numbers at manageable levels. But Illinois has not had a major rabies outbreak in about 25 years, which explains the state’s present skunky situation.
Due to the absence of hunters, fur trappers and farmers in the greater Chicago area—as opposed to rural and non-urban Illinois—the residents must relay solely on commercial trappers and pest control companies.
According to DNR wildlife biologist Bob Bluett, the state’s “skunk index,” which measures the relative size of the population, rose 46 percent from February 2009 to January 2010.
“Forty-six percent is a big jump,” Bluett told the Northwest Herald-News. “The main concern is more in terms of being aware that with the higher skunk population, the risk of rabies is higher.”
In 2010, the Illinois DNR reported 6,700 skunks were trapped by wildlife control companies in northeastern Illinois. All skunks trapped by commercial trappers are required to be euthanized.
ABC Humane Wildlife Control & Prevention has captured 687 skunks so far in 2011, up from 426 skunks at this point last year, while the overall state population has increased in 8 of the past 10 years.
Joliet Township animal control officer Bryan Jones said he averages three skunks a day and has picked up as many as ten at a time.
“You’d think with all the skunks I’ve done over the last 13 years I’d have made a dent in the population,” Jones said.