COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Skunk and coyote mating season are upon us — the Ohio Department of Natural Resources says these animals are most active from around January to March.

You may notice more coyotes and skunks around your neighborhood, but it’s best to keep your distance.

“I suggest people when they let their dog out at night or in the morning, they kind of do a quick scan first. That’s good for skunks, too,” said Sarah Schott, a wildlife communications specialist with the ODNR Wildlife Division. “Get a flashlight, kind of scan your yard just to make sure there are no skunks, no coyotes, there are no other things out there, and then let them out.”

If you see a coyote, Schott said, “As long as you’re there with your dog and you can clap your hands or shout, it’s going to scare off. They are very curious, but they are also very scared.”

But this method won’t work if you see a skunk in your yard.

“Clapping your hands and yelling at them isn’t going to do much because their natural defense is to spray,” said Schott. “Give them some space, wait for them to move along, and then you can go back outside.”

Schott said skunks will give warning signs if they are about to spray, like stomping their feet, turning around, and lifting their tail. If you miss these signs and get sprayed anyway, get yourself or your dog into a bath immediately. Many of us have heard that bathing in tomato juice is best to get rid of that skunk smell, but Schott said there is a more effective method.

“One of the best ways is to use kind of a mix of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and vinegar,” said Schott. “Those are all neutralizing of that scent and repetitive baths or showers depending on who or what got sprayed.”

Skunks and coyotes can seem scary, but Schott said just leave them alone and they’ll do the same.

“They are a wildlife which means that even though we have these misconceptions of them, they really are awesome, and they have a very important role in the ecosystem,” said Schott.

The mating season for both coyotes and skunks will come to an end within the next month or so. If you do see these creatures out and about, just try to appreciate Ohio’s wildlife from afar.