Striped Skunk

Mephitis mephitis

Striped Skunks are a fairly large mammal from the Weasel Family. They are black with two white stripes down the back which meet at the head, giving skunks a white cap. They have bushy black tails, usually tipped with white. The color patterns can vary.

Striped Skunks have long claws on their front feet for digging.

Males are larger than females, growing up to two and a half feet long.

Striped Skunks can be found in open woods, grassy fields, and parks. They are never far from water.

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Environment Canada

Striped Skunks are mostly nocturnal, and are therefore very active at night. They build a den in a protected place. A skunk den is usually a burrow with up to five entrances. Inside, the den usually has between one and three chambers. Skunks may use an old fox or woodchuck burrow, or dig their own. Sometimes they den in a hollow log or under a building.

One of the chambers is used as a nest, with the skunk adding dried leaves and grass.

Skunks mate in late Winter or early Spring. A litter may have four to seven young. About six weeks after they are born, their mother will take them hunting.

Skunks are well-known for the way they defend themselves. They have a special gland in their butts that sprays a foul-smelling liquid. The liquid will cause great pain if it gets in an animal's (or person's) eyes. It will also temporarily blind them and make them nauseus (feel like throwing up). The spray is a type of oil, so it is very hard to get off and will smell bad for a long time.

Skunks only spray as a last resort. If threatened, a skunk will first face its attacker, arch its tail, chatter its teeth, and stomp its feet. If the threat does not go away, then the skunk will turn around and spray.

Skunks are not camouflaged by their fur since most animals don't mess with them.

Wildlife Services Image Collection

Wild Encounters

Striped Skunks only have a few predators, including: owls, hawks, and foxes.

Skunks eat many kinds of animal and vegetable foods, including: beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, ants, bees, wasps, earthworms, milllipedes, centipedes, crayfish, snails, slugs, salamanders, frogs, turtle eggs, eggs of ground-nesting birds, mice, shrews, squirrels, young rabbits, fish, small snakes, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, grasses, nuts, and carrion.

Striped Skunks will often dig for their food, especially grubs (beetle larvae) and mice.

Copyright, Dr. Lloyd Glenn Ingles, California Academy of Sciences

Striped Skunks are not built to run fast. Their legs are made for digging, so they run with a slow "waddle." In the dark they can be mistaken for cats until they run.

Skunks can spray up to fifteen feet. The smell of the spray can travel a mile.

Skunks do not hibernate. They do fatten up before Winter.

Skunks are the number one carrier of the Rabies Virus.

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Striped Skunk Coloring Page
Link to Coloring Page
EnchantedLearning.com

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Common Black Ground Beetle

Great Horned Owl

Smooth Sumac

Woodchuck SP

Switchgrass

Red-tailed Hawk

Pokeweed

Red Fox SP

Fiery Searcher

Barred Owl

Spicebush

Asian Tiger Mosquito Pa

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

Red Fox

Highbush Blueberry

Freshwater Leech Pa

Creek Chub

Sassafras

American Dog Tick Pa

Eastern Black Swallowtail

Witch Hazel

Spotted Jewelweed D

Eastern Yellow Jacket

Greenbrier

Evergreen Blackberry D

Rabid Wolf Spider

Evergreen Blackberry

Eastern Hognose Snake SP

Leopard Slug

Red Maple

Chigger Pa

Black Carpenter Ant

Green Hawthorn

Dung Beetle FP

Norway Rat

Least Shrew

Red-backed Salamander

Wood Frog

Northern Bobwhite

Highbush Blueberry

Eastern Box Turtle

Evergreen Blackberry

North American Milllipede

Polyphemus Moth

Relationship to Humans:

Striped Skunks are very helpful to people, since they eat rodents (mice, squirrels, moles) and pesky insects (especially grubs and caterpillars). Many people fear them because of their ability to spray and because they sometimes carry Rabies. You will rarely see a skunk, however. More often you will smell one on, or near, a highway, because they are often hit by cars at night. If you see one during the day, call the police immediately, because this is not normal and it may be rabid. Remember, skunks will not spray you unless you are messing with them and they feel threatened. Sometimes pets get sprayed after attacking a skunk. There are different chemicals, as well as tomato juice, which can be used to get rid of the smell. Skunks are sometimes attracted by dogfood or catfood which is left outside.

Striped Skunks can sometimes be pests when they dig holes in lawns looking for grubs. Their musk (scent), beleive it or not, is sometimes used in perfumes.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Mammal
ORDER
Carnivore
FAMILY
Mustelidae
GENUS
Mephitis
SPECIES
Mephitis mephitis

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