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Striped Skunk Fact File

Appearance

The striped skunk is well known for its black and white fur. They are black across most of the body which is then patterned with a pair of white stripes running down either side of the body meeting on top of the head. A thin white stripe runs from this patch down between the eyes to the nose. Their fur is thick and sleek.

They have four short legs which end with feet that feature long claws. Their toes are semi-webbed.

At the end of the body is a large bushy tail. This tail adds between 17.5 and 25cm (6.75-10in) to their length. The tail is colored with a mixture of white and black fur and often has a white tuft of fur at its tip.

Their body will measure between 28 and 30cm (11-12in) long with an average weight of 0.7-2.5kg (1.5-5.5lbs).

Diet

Striped skunks are omnivores and have been said to eat almost anything. Their diet includes a mixture of small vertebrates such as rodents and birds, eggs, molluscs, seeds, honey, insects, fruits, grains and leaves.

Their strong front claws are used to dig insects out of the ground.

In areas where they live near humans they have been known to scavenge for leftovers and pet food.

The main staple of their diet is insects with other foods being consumed when these are not available.

striped skunk

Scientific Name

Mephitis mephitis

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

0.7-2.5kg (1.5-5.5lbs)

Length

28-30cm (11-12in)

Lifespan

Wild 7 years

Captive 10 years

Diet

Omnivorous

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Range

North America is the native home of the striped skunk. Here they can be found in Canada, Mexico and the United States. They can be found throughout most of the continental United States, in the south of Canada and the North of Mexico.

Habitat

Their wide ranging diet and large range mean they are adaptable to a wide variety of habitats. They may make their home in woods, deserts and plains.

They can live near humans including in agricultural areas where insects are in abundance. Populations of striped skunks also occur near residential areas where they can live under houses.

striped skunk

Reproduction

Striped skunks will breed from February to April. A female skunk will make a burrow or den under a fallen tree or a building in human inhabited areas.

In this den she gives birth to as many as 10 young known as pups or kits following a gestation period of 59 to 77 days. These kits are blind at birth and reliant on their mother. The eyes open by three weeks old. She is highly protective of them and will attack any predators which approach.

When the striped skunk kits are old enough mom will lead them around and they follow in a single file line.

Young can be independent as early as seven or eight weeks but others stay with their mother for up to a year.

Juvenile skunks can spray from as early as 8 days old.

They will reach sexual maturity by 1 year old.

Behavior

Striped skunks are primarily active at night. During the day they rest in a burrow, hollow log or brush pile.

During winter they may spend up to three months underground in their burrows. This is not a true hibernation but a period of extended inactivity.

These animals are solitary. They will only come together to mate.

striped skunk

Predators and Threats

One of the few natural predators of the striped skunk is the great horned owl. It is thought this is because the owl can swoop in before a skunk sprays them to that owls are not concerned due to a poor sense of smell. Bobcats have also been seen attacking striped skunks.

Other predators will not often attack skunks due to a fear of their famous defense mechanism. When threatened the striped skunk will raise its tail and stomp its feet as a warning. If this does not make the threat leave they will stand on their front legs and twist their body before spraying a noxious chemical towards would be predators.

Along with smelling bad this spray, known as musk, irritates the predators eyes.

Striped skunks have adapted well to the presence of humans and can live alongside them.

Skunks are hunted which in many US states is permitted by law and have also been effected by rabies outbreaks.

Quick facts

Striped skunks are the most common skunk species in North America.

striped skunk

Photo Credits

Top, Middle One and Middle Two

Public Domain. USFWS.

Bottom

By oswaldo – https://www.flickr.com/photos/oswaldo/576684724/, CC BY 2.0,

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2438838

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Jackson, T.,2011. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animals, Birds & Fish of North America. 1st ed. Leicestershire: Lorenz Books

Canadian Geographic. 2021. Animal Facts: Striped Skunk. [online] Available at: <https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/animal-facts-striped-skunk> [Accessed 12 January 2021].

Cwf-fcf.org. 2021. Striped Skunk. [online] Available at: <https://cwf-fcf.org/en/resources/encyclopedias/fauna/mammals/striped-skunk-1.html> [Accessed 12 January 2021]. The Maryland Zoo. 2021. Striped Skunk | The Maryland Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.marylandzoo.org/animal/striped-skunk/> [Accessed 12 January 2021].

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2021. Striped Skunk. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/striped-skunk> [Accessed 12 January 2021].

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