Striped Skunk

Category: Animal Info Pages

Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis), are also commonly referred to as polecats in some places.  They are a very short lived creature with a lifespan which rarely exceeds 6 years.  While "domesticated" (pet) skunks can live up to ten years in captivity, very few individuals have been observed to live longer than 12 months in the wild.

While the majority of people in the states envision the typical black and white combo we all know and avoid, many species can appear brown, grey, or even cream colored.  Coloration aside, all skunks share their striped pattern

Skunks have excellent hearing, and an excellent sense of smell, but can only see objects at an average of 10 feet.  This lack of sight leaves skunks very susceptible to death by automobile, and accounts for why so many are found dead alongside roadways.

Skunks usually nest in burrows left behind by other animals, but can also be found living in hollow logs and man-made structures with little activity.  They have a varied omnivorous diet, and nocturnally forage for fruit, bugs, eggs, snakes, other animals smaller than themselves, and even fish.  Skunks are also the number one predator of the honey bee. 

Skunks have very few predators, for obvious reasons!  While most animals avoid the memorable pattern and smell, the great horned owl is known to hunt skunks heavily.  In one case, as many as 57 skunk carcasses were found in a single horned owl nest.  With their characteristic warning coloration, their noxious smell, and the fact that skunks account for over 20% of all rabies cases, it's no wonder most creatures give them a wide berth.

A skunk's spray is secreted from multiple glands under its tail, and as long as the skunk's hind legs are touching something, the skunk can spray its foul mist up to ten feet very accurately.  Since the skunk is only equipped with enough juice for 5 or 6 sprays, skunks will typically give multiple warning displays before actually spraying.  Skunks carry roughly 15cc of liquid evil, and require about ten days to produce more once this supply is exhausted.