All skunks, mephitis mephitis, are known for their foul spray. Depending on the species they can measure anywhere from 15.6 to 31 feet (40 to 80 centimeters) and weigh from 1.1 to 14 pounds (0.5 to 6.3 kilograms). Most are black and white in color, although some have been known to be grey, cream and even brown. They all however, have stripes and are born with their striped markings.
The majority of skunk species are located in North America, but others are found in Indonesia and the Philippines. They make their home in hollow logs, burrows constructed by other animals, and even abandoned buildings. Though skunks are normally solitary creatures, during the coldest months they will sometimes gather in groups in order to keep each other warm. They can sleep for several weeks during this cold snap, sometimes up to a month in a sort of mini-hibernation.
Being opportunistic eaters, skunks dine on a variety of things like fruits, plants, insects, small mammals, larvae, worms, reptiles and even fish. They are nocturnal creatures and therefore do most of their foraging at night using their excellent sense of smell and hearing (their eyesight is very poor). They shoot their famous spray, which is an oily liquid produced by glands under their large tails, to protect themselves when they feel threatened. Skunks can shoot their spray up to 10 feet (3 meters) and the smell will linger for many days. Due to this potent defense, many creatures will leave skunks alone unless there is little else to eat.
Female skunks tend to give birth to their offspring in the hotter month of May after a gestation period of about 2 months. They will dig out a burrow and give birth to 10 to 20 young ones each and every year. Young skunks are toothless, blind and are unable to use their spray, making them ideal targets for predators. After a couple of weeks, the young ones will develop their spraying ability and then open their eyes soon after. They will stay with their mothers for about a year at which time they are old enough to mate themselves. If the little ones can make it, they can live from 5 to 8 years (depending on the species).
Skunks are not endangered, although they are somewhat popular as house pets. They are basically harmless creatures unless they spray you, which can cause some discomfort to your nose to say the least. It is best to give them their space and not provoke them. If you see one in your yard, you should have it removed (humanely of course) as it can attract other creatures to your home. If this happens, surely these unique creatures can live and prosper for many years to come.
“Skunk” 22 November 2010
“Skunk” 22 November 2010