Striped Skunk

(Mephitis mephitis)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in woodlands, plains, farms, desert areas, and urban habitats throughout North America, ranging from southern Canada to northern Mexico.

Size: 18-32 inches long; Up to 14 pounds

Wild Diet: Primarily grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and other insects; sometimes small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, fruits, plants, worms, eggs, and larvae

Predators: Owls, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and badgers

Lifespan: 2-3 years in the wild; Up to 10 years in zoos

Reproduction: Striped skunks are polygynous, meaning that one male usually mates with several females. After a 9-10 week gestation, females nest in hollowed-out logs, abandoned burrows or urban hideouts and give birth to 2-10 kits. Kits are born with eyes closed and nurse for 6-7 weeks. They learn to hunt and forage by following their mother in a single-file line.

Behavior: Striped skunks are solitary, nocturnal, and usually silent. In the winter, they are inactive and rely on fat reserves; during this time multiple individuals may den together. Striped skunks are known for powerful anal scent glands that can spray irritating musk up to 10 feet away to deter predators. This is usually done when a skunk is startled or after a predator has ignored its warning signs (stomping, hissing, and raised tail).


Conservation

IUCN Status: Least Concern

Striped skunks are widespread throughout their range and some populations have even increased in recent years.

Did you know?

  • Skunks are one of the primary predators of the honeybee. They are known to scratch at beehives and eat guard bees as they emerge. Their thick fur protects them against bee stings.
  • Skunk musk contains sulfuric compounds that can temporarily blind predators if sprayed in the face.