Is That Skunk?
Contest: How We Got the Spray Shot

At around the 29 minute point of Is That Skunk? you will see a shot that may simultaneously intrigue and disgust you. In fact, it may be the most disgusting shot ever to air on PBS. It is a close-up view of a skunk spraying, filmed in slow-motion HD.

There are a number of elements to consider when you see this shot. The first is that even though NATURE broadcasts are available in HD, they sadly lack a “Smellovision” feature. The second is that our camera seems to be REALLY close to the wrong end of the skunk. The third… and this is the kicker… skunks do not spray on command. There is no skunk in the universe that will spray if you command it to.

So, how did we film the skunk spray? Let us know how you think we got the shot by submitting your guess in the comments field below.

I will then reveal on Friday, January 30 how we really did it. On January 29, Jerry and I will pick the entry that gave the closest answer, and the winner will get a free copy of Is That Skunk? on DVD (along with significant bragging rights).

- James Donald, Producer

  • Jenna

    I think the skunk probably was cornered or put in some type of place that it couldn’t turn around too easlily (no hurt intended on the skunk) and with the camera being in the right place at the right time, bagged the shot. I do feel sorry for the camera person. They used to spray under my house all the time so I know first hand what the ‘juice’ smells like.

  • Diana Allen

    Did you follow the critter around with a really, really ultra-zoom lens until he got a little ticked off at something? lol =)

  • Dee Dee Rachel

    I think both #1 and #2 are somewhat right. I think he was in some sort of cage and someone provoked the skunk. The camera was positioned at the right place and the provoker was persistent. I hope you wore nose pluggs.

  • Lynn Oliver

    I think you snuck up on the skunk and scared it. I know that skunks are nearsighted and are easily spooked. I am a wildlife rehabber and raised some orphans last year. It was when I forgot to announce myself before showing up that I had “stink” problems.

  • Arnold Hildebrand ( Wild Brother Animal Behavior Study)

    Hi. I am the cameraman for Wild Brother, I think that you may have used a model of a skunk, with a feature that would spray a colored liquid, while a camera would be filming at the same instance. I know it would not be a favorable experience, to have to repeat over and over with a live fully loaded skunk. If we would happen to be correct and win the DVD, we will donate it to a Nature Center or our Cincinnati Zoo,s Education Department. Any way, good luck everyone. Lets solve this one.

  • S. Brown

    I think it’s quite possible that cameras were hidden where skunks frequented (put on motion trip) and then the poor things were scared into spraying.

  • Doug P

    Did you suddenly show it a large stuffed owl, dog, or other predator to startle it?

  • Judy

    Did you hold the skunk and express the glands in much the same way one can express the anal glands of a dog?
    Or perhaps you mounted a camera on a robotic device, and sent it in for the closeup?

  • Pepper

    What an amazing shot.

  • fred

    I love the smell of skunk. Am I the only one???

  • Melanie Wilson

    zoom lens and just startled the skunk

  • T. Mesfin

    However stinky’s picture was taken,there is a “mirror” involved!

  • Share Bond

    Being that I’ve overseen the skunk spraying segments on two television shows where they wanted to be sprayed by a skunk (Jack Ass and a Japanese show) to make sure that the animal was not harmed in any way, I can tell you that they do NOT spray on demand. By the time they are ready for the camera to roll, the skunk is used to the people. By nature, they aren’t afraid of anything. You would have to really startle a skunk in this situation to get it to spray, so I think they shot a gun or banged real hard on a metal trash can. Anything used to startle the skunk visually, the skunk would look over its shoulder to see where it is going to spray, making a U shape of their body. Of course, I have not seen the taping yet and just realized that I don’t get PBS, so I hope someone lets me know how they got this marvelous shot. Being that I’ve never been sprayed by a skunk in 18 years, I’m sure glad that I never got to see this shot in person! I’d love to purchase a DVD of this series!! Please let me know where and when I can.

  • Kobe

    I think the skunk was anesthetized and a mini-camera was attached near its scent gland and then after the skunk awoke, it was then ‘encouraged’ to squirt.

  • Valerie Dawson

    Was the cameraman behind glass? With a zoom lens. To get the skunk to spray, maybe they used a remote control dog or some other remote control animal to scare it.

  • shy

    I think it was scared maybe using a mirror. And I will confess I also love the smell of skunk, I think it smells kinda like strong lemon juice.

  • Valerie Dawson

    I think the camera man was behind glass, with a zoom in lens. Then they used a remote control dog, or remote control animal to scare it.

  • Susan Stainback

    So many good answers. Just a shot in the dark but maybe a surveilance camera placed on a critter such as a dog who would stupidly charge a skunk and catch their ire. A good shot and a lesson learned with such a situation at the same time.

  • Salvatore Paradise

    Was a film shown to the skunk of a life-sized fast approaching automobile?

  • Andrew Bruening

    I think that a trapped skunk was held in a small enclosure with a camera in the correct spot and then shocked with a small charge in order to spray.

  • Scott

    I bet it was a camera mounted on a remote control vehicle like a kids toy. It might have been enough to startle the animal.

  • Greg

    I think a small camera was attached to the skunk, maybe at the top of one of its hind legs.

  • Dana Lipp

    The skunk was in a clear plexiglas cage to restrict his movement. The cage was fitted with a hose connected to an exhaust fan. The exhausted air was bubbled through a solution to scrub out the noxious vapors. The skunk was wearing a training shock collar made for dogs which was remotely triggered. A high speed flash and was also triggered by the same remote control. A camera was set up on a tripod and focused, with the shutter set to bulb. The remote trigger was pressed to start the high speed flash and excite the skunk, capturing the sequence. Ewwww!

  • Sue

    I think a captive skunk was used and it was familiar with a nest bow with a viewing window where a camera was mounted. To cause it to spray a predator was introduced to this confined spaces opening or behind a glass sheild and being trapped in the “box” the skunk was stimulated to protect itself.

  • Elise

    I think that the camera was set up to try and catch a shot of the skunk spraying and that it happened at the right moment.

  • Val

    I think this is taken with a video camera. The skunk was followed around until it was atartled or picked up. ( I like the smell of skunk too)

  • Dana Lipp

    Addition to my previous response:

    Liquid bleach was used in the absorbing solution to convert the smelly, volatile thiols into non volatile, non odorous sulfonic acids.

  • Laura

    I think that an animal that could be a threat to a skunk was wearing a collar that had the camera attached to it. The animal then started to annoy the skunk. When the skunk got fed up with it all, it sprayed, and the camera caught it all, close up!

  • D Lewis

    As the program showed, skunks hate the low bass in music, so I think you put the skunk in an enclosure with a boombox and cranked up the bass volume on some rock or hiphop – perhaps suddenly or perhaps after the skunk lost its patience when it could not escape the noise.

  • Joey

    I think there was a ‘worm camera’ used, either attached to another skunk or to Mr. Drago. Someone perhaps reached into a den and got a surprise when the den was inhabited. How fun, please let us know how it was really captured. Priceless shot!

  • Peter

    I think that the camera was on a radio controlled robot that followed the skunk around, and it was disguised as a dog or some other predator to a skunk. It irritated the skunk, and he decided to spray. As this happened, the robot was in the ideal spot to film it happening.

  • Joyce Green

    Perhape you had a remote dog that made a noise and u were in a vehicle and got the skunk on high power lens.You were in a place where the skunk frequented it every night.

  • Mary Miles Kokotek

    I think maybe the skunk was placed in some type of clear cage or box (plexiglass) and approached by someone. Camera was attached to the cage and this shot was taken after the skunk had gone through the initial motions of warding off the “predator” such as fluffing its fur, shaking its tail, and stamping it used its last resort of lifting its tail and spraying. The camera, capturing multiple shots, caught this amazing moment.

  • Steve Menze

    I would start with a completely enclosed plexiglas cage to contain the scent and restrict the movement of the “chosen” skunk, take a preserved skin of a head of a known predator, such as a coyote, mount a camera inside the head, sticking the lens through one of the eye openings or mouth, mount the camera and head on a stick and then provoke the hapless skunk into defending itself. I’m guessing it took more than a couple of attempts to get the money shot. Great work camera guys!

  • Matthew Mehlhaf

    I believe that the shot was aquired by a detained skunk which was then secured in a controlled enivironment and then multiple motion capturing devices were used to document the incident.

  • Charlene Taylor

    I also think a video camera (with a zoom lense is probably a significant part of the answer. Given the skunks ability to direct the spray toward the face, and that the spray is definitely pointed upward, I wonder if the skunk was being held in front of a stationary videocam, and provoked or possibly have the glands expressed?

  • Johnny Look

    Chili and beer does it for me.

  • Dana Lipp

    My last comment!

    I’m in a still camera frame of mind. For high speed video, you have no bulb setting or need for strobes!

  • Philip Howe

    Skunks have superb startle reactions. Although nearsighted, they respond quickly to a combination of motion and noise. It would be easy to get the spray pictures shown by having rapid motion accompanied by a loud noise, behind a protective glass.

    For all of that, only the careless get sprayed. My wife and I have raised nine skunks – some for months at a time prior to descenting. Skunks are masters of the double take: Anything unusual is greeted with a quick step back, a foot stomp, and a raised tail. Interestingly, a good startle is also often accompanied by a case of hiccups, which always reduces us to laughter.

    We have interacted with many skunksin the wild. The wild skunks are always models of dignity and decorum. Courtesy is appreciated and well rewarded. No wild skunk has ever sprayed us.

  • Julie Lawyer

    my thought was that it was from the video when
    the coyote was trying to get the skunk
    however I did see online sites where tiny cameras
    were put on cats which could also be put on a
    dog but I don’t think it would be that clear if it
    was done that way.

  • mark lieberman

    I mean, a caged skunk, a zoom lens, and a “scarecrow” predator-looking type remote device…that’s how I would attempt it, anyway.

  • T. Mesfin

    Additional info:

    The skunk was placed in a glass / plexiglas and mirror environment (tall) covered by a black shroud. A camera with a motion sensor may have been mounted on its own tail,it may have been mounted in any corner or may even be mounted on a native Great horned owl (which may be immune to the spray) to prey, once the skunk is threatened by noise or shadow it sprays, the camera will trigger and capture, The close up being a – REFLECTION!

  • Ace Attura

    You probably used at least one mirror — the skunk saw another skunk (himself/herself) that would NOT back off and kept stomping at it (his/her reflection!!). And lo and behold the “other” skunk kept stomping back!! What to do? SPRRAAAAAY!! At least one of the mirrors had to be a 2-way mirror, with the camera safely on the other side of the mirror. Since skunks can spray more than once, even if a retake had to be done, it could be done with the same (or maybe a second, stand-in) skunk.

  • Chris Scroggins

    I think the video was created in an outdoor studio environment you set up while you were filming in that skunk filled town in California. You enticed the wild skunk into a tall dark enclosure surrounded by lights by putting a bowl of yummy cat food in the back and once the hungry skunk started snacking, one of your crew popped some balloons right outside the enclosure, at which point the skunk gave you your ’shot’. And the crew member, who was dressed head to foot in full bio hazard attire simply unzipped his protective clothing which you then burned. Cute show! Loved the baby skunks.

  • Dawn Van Deman

    I am a wildlife rehabilitator and several years ago I took on my first litter of seven orphan skunks. I accepted the fact that I would probably get doused several times, but I was pleasantly surprised – they stomped and threatened, but the only spraying incident occurred when I took them outside and one started to scamper off and required a sudden snatch, resulting in a minor squirt. So that’s my guess – wild skunk, sudden grabbing! (and some really awesome camera folk).

  • Joe Van Os

    You used a road killed skunk and “plumbed” its parts for filming. You used vegetable oil or other yellow liquid forced with pressure and were able to get the shot and probably do several takes to get it as you wanted it.

  • Kim G

    This is very frustrating that you don’t have the video here to look at – you have all these other videos list under ‘Watch full episode’ so I am assuming itmight be hidden in one of them?! It’s not in the ‘Chemistry behind the Spray’ on e- please help!

  • John Roomes

    What was the formula for deodorizing skunk spray? They used it on a dog in the program.

  • Sherry Hand

    I believe that it is the shot of the skunk spraying the coyote; just a close up section of the actual film (or cropped section).

  • Bernadette

    I’m going to guess a minicam was attached to the business end of the skunk, which was placed in a protective case & then a “never learns” dog (similar to one I have) was sent to the area.
    Of all the critters who come around to eat cat/dog food/veggie garden goods at my house, the skunks are definately my favorite.

  • lex

    cg animation

  • Judi C.

    I believe you used the spotted skunk doing his hand stand spray technique, the cameraman simply being there with the camera scared him and he reacted. Looks like the skunk was aiming at something like say a large fuzzy boom mike? Perfect subject I think, for he did seem about to spray and didn’t want to be bothered further. Hope I’m right! It was a fantastic show!

  • Mark S.

    Maybe the guy from New Mexico, Jerry, who doesn’t mind being sprayed, took the camera and got the shot.

  • M.E.D.

    I think it could be taxidermy skunk and they rigged up some fake anal glands and some fake spray. It actually looks like the same yellow as MUSTARD.

  • Vette

    It was purely an accident/luck.

  • Katrina Owens

    Having skunks and dealing with one that could spray it was not easy if use to humans. I would say you had to scare it one way or another to get it to spray like a dog or another critter it is not use to. Making the skunk feel threatened.

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