Striped Skunk

Mephitis mephitis

Go Back to Field Guide
  • Striped Skunk | The National Geographical Society c1918 Photo: Dan Dzurisin
wowslider.com by WOWSlider.com v8.6m

Striped Skunk Photo Gallery

Basic Information

Order

Carnivora

Family

Mephitidae

Size

Striped Skunks are generally between 18 and 32 inches in length.

Lifespan

up to 7 years

Weight

Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) facts, habitat, diet, range, skunk pictures and more to help you learn to identify the smelly mammal.

Diet

Omnivore

Breeding

Striped Skunks breed in late winter to early spring. Females will produce one litter a year, however males may mate with more than one female. Males and females only associate during breeding season. Once a female is impregnanted, she will fight any male that attempts to mount her. Both sexes generally reach sexual maturity by about one year of age.

Range

Nationwide

Number of Offspring

1-10 kits

What does the Striped Skunk look like?

Striped Skunks are pretty hard to miss. They are black with a white nape that splits into a "V" along their backs and down their bushy tails. They have a thin white stripe on their muzzle and forehead. As with all skunks, they have highly developed anal scent glands that emit that familiar unpleasant odor. Males are larger, but both sexes look similar in appearance.

Striped Skunk Habitat

Open Forests

Striped Skunk Facts

We say Striped Skunk, you immediately think of that familiar foul smelling odor. Striped Skunks are the most common skunks in the country, yet most of what biologists know about them comes from captive animals. That's because of their effective and intimidating defense mechanism. They have two enlarged scent glands near the base of their tail. When agitated striped skunks can spray a foul oily yellow discharge accurately more than ten feet away. If you've ever lived in the country you likely have a story about a dog or perhaps even someone being sprayed by a skunk. The fluid itself is fairly harmless, but the smell is extremely difficult to get rid of. It you get sprayed in the eyes, it can cause great pain and even temporary blindness. Good news skunks are mostly nocturnal, so you're fairly unlikely to see one on your favorite trail, unless you are an avid night hiker. If you do encounter one, be careful. Skunks are passive by nature, but they will spray you if you press your luck. They do give you a warning. They will stomp their front paws a few times before turning around, raising their tails then making you an icky mess. Striped Skunks eat a variety of things, including insects, small mammals, carrion and vegetation. Because of their supreme defense, skunks are fairly safe from predation. Wolves, foxes and pretty much everything that can smell tend to shy away from them. Their main threat is Great-horned Owls whom have a very poor sense of smell. Skunks themselves have an incredible sense of smell and hearing but poor vision. Their docile nature translates into relatively slow moving, however they can run up to ten miles per hour. They do not hibernate, but are inactive for about a month during the coldest part of winter, during which they live off fat reserves.

See also