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What's the big stink?

You know spring is here as the smell of skunks begins to fill the air.

With the smell comes story after story of those who got a little too close to the varmints and how they got rid of the ghastly odor.

Tomato juice has been known as the cure-all for years.

"I think that's myth. That's my take on it," North Dakota Department of Game and Fish Department administrative assistant Janel Kolar said from her Dickinson office.

Dickinson Paw & Claw Pet Palace co-owner Jessie Lemieux sees an increase in customers looking to get the smell out of their pets in May and June and she says a commercial product, Nature's Miracle, works.

She also gets to hear the stinky stories -- including her mom's, whose dog managed to get into a batch of baby skunks and got sprayed three times last year. Mom tried tomato juice.

"I think it neutralizes it but I don't think it took the smell away," Lemieux said, adding, "you know they aren't going to sit in a bathtub for 10 minutes soaking in tomato juice."

Besides leaving behind a smell, remnants of the unlucky striped ones can be seen driving down area roads more frequently in the spring.

Stark County Road Department Superintendent Al Heiser said he's only seen one skunk this spring but as the weather warms each year he notices an increase.

"I think a lot like to hibernate in culverts and when the water comes out they like to leave," he said. He also has a skunk story (and is brave enough to tell it) even though, "my mother-in-law will kill me," he jokes.

"She likes animals and some kids trapped a skunk in a live animal trap," he said. "She was letting it out in there and a skunk sprayed her."

Kolar too had a dog that was once sprayed. Finally, after numerous shampoos, he was stink-free, she said.

She kept a recipe, which consists of hydrogen peroxide, soap and baking soda, from years ago because she heard it works to get the smell out of animals. She also said bleach works to clean the smell from buildings that get sprayed, but do not use it on animals.

Kolar admits she's not an expert and recommends people go to their veterinarian before experimenting with home remedies.

Their vicious smell isn't the only thing to worry about, Lemmon (S.D.) Veterinary Clinic Dr. Ron Ford said.

"If a dog is current with vaccination and an owner thinks he got tangled with skunk, it's a good idea to go and get the booster shot," he said.

There are two main variants of rabies circulating in the U.S., and those are from raccoons and skunks, assistant state veterinarian Dr. Jesse Vollmer said.

"Those animals can pass it on for quite a while before they die," he said.

Drastic behavioral changes are a sign of rabies, Ford said. "They can go from aggressive to almost friendly."

Rabies is among the reasons it is illegal to bring skunks into North Dakota, unless for exhibit by a zoo or the like, Vollmer said. It is also illegal to keep them as a pet in the state, though people in other states de-scent them and harbor them.

Skunks don't hibernate but do stay in their dens when it is cold, NDGF Wildlife Division administrative assistant Dale Repnow said from his Bismarck office. "If there's a particular day when it's nicer out, they will come out."

If a skunk becomes a nuisance, a resident does not need a hunting license to shoot it, he said.

He also is unsure of tomato juice's effectiveness and says there is likely no secret ingredient.

And the tomato juice mystery sits unsolved.

"I think it helps but doesn't eliminate it," Ford said.

As for Heiser's mother-in-law, she turned to the Internet and found a way to get the smell off, he said, adding it was tomato juice and "something" but he can't remember the secret ingredients.

When it comes to laws on nuisance sons-in-law, that's a story for another time.