It is a stinky time of year out on the SouthCoast and pet owners need to prepare their four-legged friends.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management recently posted about skunk breeding season and why it could make things stinky for outdoor pets.

Apparently, late winter is when the skunks all start looking for love and competition for a mate and that could make for some smelly nights on the SouthCoast.

Though skunks typically only spray as a defense mechanism when they are either cornered by a predator or protecting their young, mating season is a little different. For the next few weeks, skunks may start letting off their stink at other skunks to say "get away from my woman."

The fight for a mate may also mean more risk of spray for any other animals around these skunks.

If your pet typically spends their nights outside, you may want to rethink that plan for a few weeks to avoid any unnecessary tomato soup baths.

Skunks competing for mates are probably not thinking about other animals around them. Increased skunk activity as they search for a mate could bring more of these striped animals into SouthCoast backyards.

For those hoping to avoid attracting any skunks to their yard, RIDEM suggests removing outdoor food sources such as open trash bins or uncovered compost. Taking in pet food dishes at night is also highly recommended along with securing any livestock inside buildings overnight if possible.

Skunks love building homes in wood and rock piles, but find spaces under low porches and sheds to be perfect for raising families. Building on concrete pads or foundations are best for avoiding stinky, unwanted neighbors.

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To prepare yourself for a potential incident, always keep your vet's phone number handy, along with an after-hours clinic you can call in an emergency. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also has a hotline you can call at (888) 426-4435 for advice.

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