striped skunk

Skunk

Eastern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorious) or Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Skunks are small mammals, notorious for their ability to spray a liquid with a strong unpleasant odor. They are closely related to the mink and weasel, but not as sleek and agile as their relatives. There are 11 different species of skunks, with the most common being the striped skunk.

Habitat

Skunks are native to North America and can be found in Northern Mexico and as far north as Central Canada. They easily adapt to many different habitats, including woods, grasslands, brush, open prairies and developed areas. Skunks can be found in rural and urban areas as long as there is ample water supply, and rarely venture further than two miles from their homes.

Size & Appearance

Skunks vary in size, ranging from 15.6 to 37 inches in length and weighing between 1 and 18 pounds. They have long bodies with short muscular legs and long front claws for digging. Although most skunks’ fur colors are black and white, some skunks are brown, grey or even cream colored. All skunks are striped, but the stripes may vary from a single thick stripe to two thinner stripes or even a series of spots and broken stripes.

Diet

Skunks are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals and change their diets with the seasons. Animals that make up a skunk’s diet include insects and larvae, earthworms, grubs, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles, eggs and honeybees. The rest of their diet consists of berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi and nuts.

Scent Glands

Skunks are notorious for their scent glands, which they can use a defensive weapon. The glands produce a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals, which have a highly offensive smell. The fluid’s odor is strong enough to fend away bears and other potential predators and can be extremely difficult to remove from clothing or skin. Their spray can be highly accurate at distances up to 10 feet and cause irritation and even temporary blindness.

Skunk Fun Facts

  • Some skunks also have stripes on their legs
  • Skunks are one of the primary predators of the honeybee. Using their thick fur to protect them from stings, the skunk scratches the outside of the beehive and eats the guard bee that’s comes out. Mother skunks teach their young this behavior.
  • Skunks are solitary animals when not mating
  • Skunks are not hibernators in the winter, but they do den in a dormant state for extended periods of time
  • When born, skunk babies (kits) are blind and deaf for about three weeks
  • Though a well-known remedy, tons of tomato juice is needed to bathe away the smell of a skunk’s spray. The Humane Society recommends using a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dishwashing liquid
  • The keeping of skunks as domesticated pets is illegal in most US states
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