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Nature is an amazing thing and while there are some beautiful things out there, nature also has a way of being pretty repulsive. I’m talking about smelly animals. Some creatures produce scents that would make your eyes water. Let’s explore some of these creatures which you probably won’t want to get too close to!
Why Do Animals Produce Their Own Scent?
Animals use all kinds of methods to communicate, including vocalizations and even producing light. But did you know that many creatures rely on scent to communicate? It’s not that much of a surprise when you consider that even we, as humans, use pheromone scents, especially when it comes to attraction. Here are some ways that animals use scent to their advantage.
To Mark Their Territory
Animals aren’t like humans; they can’t just buy or rent a home and expect others not to enter. It’s something of a fight to retain the best territory, and some animals will use scent to let others know hey, you can’t stay here!
One of the most common ways that animals mark their territory is by urinating on it. Some will simply pee on things, while others, like the bear, will mix their urine with mud and rub the mixture onto trees.
And while we’re on the subject of mixing substances, we have to talk about the beaver. It makes little mud cakes and then covers them in a chemical called castoreum which it excretes from a gland near the tail. Its pungent smell lets other animals know whose territory this is.
You’ve probably seen your pet dog peeing on things as a way of letting others know to stay away. This is also a behavior observed in wild dogs such as the wolf. Other wild canines, like the fox, will strategically drop urine and feces around the territory to let everyone else know who’s king here!
Cats have scent glands in their faces which is why you’ll often see your feline friend rubbing her face on items she wants to claim.
To Warn Off Intruders & Attacks from Predators
The wild is a dog-eat-dog world; nobody is safe; unless you’re an apex predator, of course. But for most animals, they need to protect themselves against predatory attacks and many of them use scent to do this.
Perhaps the most well-known stinky prey animal is the skunk. It uses scent which it sprays from its anal glands to scare off predators. However, skunks don’t do this lightly, and they will provide visual warnings to the attacker before they let off their infamous stench!
And it’s not just mammals that behave this way; there are plenty of mini beasts that have glands in their hind legs which produce smells to ward off attackers.
Vultures have a rather unique way of getting rid of potential threats; they’ll throw up all over their food. Often, predators will try to take the carcasses that vultures are feeding on but their stinky sick is more than enough to send them packing.
To Attract a Mate
Pheromones are chemical signals perceived as scents that allow communication between members of the same species. Even humans have pheromones that unconsciously attract us to certain people, such as a potential partner or even our mother when we’re a baby. It’s a primitive thing but still very effective.
In the animal kingdom, many creatures will produce strong-smelling pheromones in order to attract a mate. Female moths, for example, will produce a sex-attractant pheromone which is produced in the abdomen. This is especially beneficial for flightless moths as it brings the male directly to her without the need to move.
On the African plains, male giraffes use the scent of the female’s urine to determine if she is fertile. While the alligator secretes a smelly oil from his jaw to attract a mate.
Brown lemmings like to mate with a female that has had no previous partners and the males can even sniff out the scent of a virgin female! Once the female has mated, her chemical scent changes and this serves as a clear indicator to other males.
In order to prevent other males from mating with their chosen female, fruit flies will rub their own pheromones onto the female during copulation. This scent is found in the ejaculate of the male and makes the female far less attractive to other potential suitors.
To Communicate Where Food Is
In the wild, animals often work together to locate food. When they find it, they need a way to communicate this to other members of their group. Scent is one way that some animals communicate where to find food.
Ants, for example, will search for food and then leave a scent trail from the food source all the way back to the rest of the colony. All they have to do is follow the trail and this is why, if you ever find ants in your home, you should remove them quickly as their friends will likely follow.
Some flightless bees also behave in a similar way leaving glandular secretions for other members of the colony to trace food. What’s amazing is that the bees can control the scent and will deposit favorable scents on food sources but leave deterrents on things that they don’t want the rest of the colony to eat.
Smelliest Animals You Won’t Want to get too Close to
The fact that nature has produced so many ways for animals to use smells to communicate is nothing short of fascinating. But I personally wouldn’t want to get up close and personal with these creatures when they’re doing their stinky thing!
1. Striped Skunk
Out of all the stinky animals in the world, the skunk is probably the most famous. These animals have anal glands which produce a sulfur containing chemical that has a smell very similar to rotten eggs and garlic.
But while skunks primarily use this stink to deter predators, they will provide a warning first, stamping their feet before spraying.
The stench is so bad that, when the wind moves just right, it can carry up to 20 feet (6 meters)!
Humans don’t usually come into contact with the wolverine as it’s such a shy animal. But while it is rare, the wolverine knows how to take care of itself and will produce a foul-smelling chemical that serves as a way of warning predators to stay away as well as marking their territory.
Despite its name, the wolverine is not a type of wolf but is more closely related to the weasel. They’re sometimes called the skunk bear owing to their pungent aroma which they’ll also use to let other wolverines know they’re available for mating.
3. Striped Polecat
The striped polecat has an incredibly strong scent that can be smelled up to half a mile (800 meters) away! This scent is produced in the anal gland, much like other members of the same family; mustelids which also include the skunk and the weasel.
Striped polecats use their scent to mark their territory but also spray it to keep predators from attacking. Just like the skunk, they’ll provide visual warnings first and take on the threat stance. If this doesn’t work, they aim their spray into the attacker’s eyes which can be blinding.
4. Tasmanian Devil
The Tasmanian devil, as its name suggests, is found on the Australian island of Tasmania. Despite the cartoon image of the animal in the Looney Tunes series, they’re not quite as dizzying as one might imagine. Although, the real-life Taz does produce a very loud screeching sound.
In terms of smell, Tasmanian devils don’t usually stink, but when they feel stressed, they give off a nasty scent that is designed to protect them.
5. Bombardier Beetle
One of the things that makes the bombardier beetle a true horror in the world of stinky animals is that it produces a gas that, once released, heats up to boiling point! This can be fatal to small animals and would certainly be painful to a human.
Bombardier beetles produce a stink that contains hydrogen peroxide and hydrogen quinone and they make this in glands around the abdomen. Amazingly, they’re able to shoot this stink up to four times their own body length.
6. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
There are around 200 species of stink bug. But in the USA, the most commonly seen one is the brown marmorated stink bug. You may see them around the home and garden but stay away as they can produce a nasty, sharp odor.
While the chemical cocktail within the spray is nontoxic to humans, the stink bug uses it when it feels threatened. No predator wants to eat something that smells that bad!
7. Southern Tamandua
If you thought the skunk was king of the stink then think again; the Southern tamandua can be between four and seven times smellier than the smelliest skunk.
These South American animals are more commonly known as the lesser anteater and have an anal gland that produces the scent when they feel threatened. On top of this, they have super strong arm muscles and long claws to give attackers a run for their money.
8. Musk Ox
Out of all the creatures on this list, the musk ox might be the grossest. These animals create a stench in two ways, and they usually do it in mating season.
Firstly, the males will produce a potent smelling musk from a gland near the eye, which they rub all over themselves to attract a mate. Secondly, during mating season, they’ll allow their urine to soak into the hair on their underbellies, making for a very pungent aroma.
These Arctic animals are also pretty aggressive when it comes to mating. The males are known to hold females captive and will roughhouse them if they don’t succumb to their demands.
9. King Rat Snake
Most of us think of snakes as using venomous bites to protect themselves or catch prey. The king rat snake is a constrictor, but it also has a weapon to help protect it from attackers, and that’s a nasty stink that is created in post-anal glands.
These snakes are so smelly that they’ve been given the nickname the stinking goddess, and it’s not hard to see why.
King rat snakes change color over the course of the first two years of life, finally becoming black with yellow markings. They’re found across Asia.
Millipedes are often thought of as having 1000 legs, given their name refers to a thousand. However, most of them only have around 750 legs; that’s still a lot! But this isn’t their only distinguishing feature.
These arthropods can produce a nasty smell when they feel threatened. If a predator tries to attack, the millipede will curl up into a ball and give off a rancid scent that contains hydrogen cyanide. This scent can kill a mouse up to six times, although it would take around 100 millipedes to finish off a human.
There’s a saying in German that translates to smell like a hoopoe, and I’m not surprised that someone has used this comparison. These birds produce a chemical scent from their preen glands during nesting season as a method of protection.
The smell is comparable to rotten meat but it isn’t only this that makes the hoopoe one of the stinkiest birds on the planet. Even the babies get in on the action and will squirt poop at any attacker who dares to approach the nest. Yuck!
Hyenas are very successful predators but they need to make sure that other animals know whose territory is whose. In order to do this, hyenas leave a scent on the long grass from a paste that they create in scent glands below the tail.
It’s also not uncommon for these animals to use scent when it comes to reproducing and finding a mate.
13. European Polecat
Just like the striped polecat, the European polecat can be a smelly little critter. They produce a yellow, musky oil that they use for protection against predators and marking their territory.
These animals are the last remaining ancestor of the ferret; there are no longer any ferrets in the wild after they were domesticated more than 2000 years ago. The same fate almost befell the European polecat when numbers dwindled so low that they were very nearly extinct.
However, there are now around 50,000 in the UK alone, and farmers are no longer treating them as pests but rather as helpers who prey on vermin.
The pangolin can lay claim to being the only scaled mammal. There are eight pangolin species, half in Asia and the other half in Africa. But of these eight species, three are critically endangered, while the remainder are either vulnerable or endangered.
Pangolins are also under threat due to the fact that they are the most trafficked mammal in the world. People want them for their meat and their scales so there’s a lot of work around their protection right now.
These creatures produce a smelly aroma from their anal glands when they feel threatened, and they’ll also use the same scent to mark their territory. When they’re scared, they’ll also curl up into a ball making them impossible to eat even for the most well-equipped predators like the tiger.
The hoatzin is a type of bird that lives in South America, most notably, the Amazon rainforest. It’s been nicknamed the stink bird because it gives off a whiff of manure and this is for no other reason than how the bird digests its food.
Hoatzins are purely leaf eating birds and they digest their food in their fore gut as opposed to their hind gut. This is not all that dissimilar to how cows digest food, but the hoatzin has bacteria that help to ferment the leaves in the gut and this is what leads to their potent aroma.
There are more than 2000 species of earwigs in the world, but only ten are native to North America. However, it’s not those that you need to worry about if you’re looking to keep these pests out of your home. The European earwig was brought to the States at the beginning of the 20th century and is now a real pest for producers in this country.
It’s known that earwig infestations can be very problematic in vineyards as they can affect the taste of the wine. Moreover, they can cause serious damage to fruit. However, since they do prey on aphids, they’re somewhat beneficial.
But it’s the smell that you want to steer clear off. Earwigs give off a strong acrid aroma when they feel threatened, and use this as a form of self-defense.
17. Sea Hare
The sea hare is a marine invertebrate that produces a smelly purple liquid made of ink and opaline. The opaline in the liquid blocks the chemoreceptors of predators meaning they cannot sniff out food. This theory has been tested on lobsters who were also seen to be physically irritated when sprayed.
Sea hares are also covered in a slimy substance which can further irritate anything that tries to eat them.
You’d think that this, coupled with the fact that sea hares are toxic, would be enough to deter anyone. But it seems that humans like a challenge and as such, the sea hare is considered a delicacy in China.
How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell
One of the most common reasons that humans are exposed to skunk stink is if they hit one with their car. The anal glands are put under enormous pressure and are compressed, therefore releasing the smell.
If the skunk stink gets onto your skin or clothes, it can cling, leaving you smelling bad for a long time. But there is a way to get rid of it.
Be mindful not to pay attention to internet rumors about tomato juice getting rid of skunk smell. Yes, it’ll cover the smell and you’ll be exposed to nothing but the scent of tomatoes but once that dissipates, you’ll be back to square one.
Instead, it’s recommended to use a blend of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and baby shampoo in the following measures:
- 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide
- ¼ cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of baby shampoo
You’ll need to create a lather with this mixture and leave it to sit for at least five minutes. However, since this recipe contains hydrogen peroxide, it’s not suitable for use on your clothing or other fabrics as it may lighten them. Although, if you perform a patch test first, you may be able to use it for cleaning car upholstery and other similar fabrics.
In the case that you cannot use the above method, you’ll need to use a commercial skunk smell remover product, or you could try steam cleaning which may kill the smell. Just be sure to tackle the smell as soon as possible because the longer you leave it, the worse it will get!