Their stinky spray isn’t a weapon — it’s a warning. Like many smaller animals, the skunk’s weapons are all about self-defense, not offense. The organic sulfur-compound they eject from two small anal glands (known as a musk) indicates they taste bad – and the spray warns predators to stay away. Skunks are typically not aggressive, but will spray a very foul odor when they feel threatened.
Skunks rarely spray each other, but a hapless human or curious dog may not be so lucky. When skunks feel threatened, they give a warning before spraying by raising their tail, arching their back like an angry cat, hissing, growling, and stomping their rear feet. Then they start running at you and stomping, and if you don’t know what’s good for you by then, you probably deserve the spraying.
Their spray is a last resort. Skunks will usually avoid conflict and, most frequently, choose flight over fight. Unless they’re suddenly scared, they give you lots of warning before they spray, starting by lifting the tail like a flag. That lift gets the tail out of the way of the spray, but also says, “Look here; I’m a skunk. Don’t you know what skunks do? Shouldn’t you be leaving now?”