Skunks are notorious for the foul odor of their spray. They are easily identified because of their fluffy tail and black and white fur. The most common skunk species in North America is the striped skunk.
These stinky critters average size is 20-30” long and around 6-10 pounds. They have very strong forefeet and long claws that are used for digging. They are extremely adaptable and thrive in many different habitats. They rarely travel more than 2 miles from established dens and usually will settle with a couple miles of a water source. Their dens are made in tree hollows, brush piles, hollowed out logs, underneath porches, wood piles and other structures. Sometimes they will dig their own burrows underground if no other shelter is available.
Skunks start mating in February and March and give birth to liters in April through early June. Their gestation period lasts around 2 months. They usually have 1-7 kits at a time and they are weaned at 2 months old. They usually leave the den for good around 10-12 months and can start reproducing at that time.
They don’t hibernate but tend to be inactive in the coldest months in winter. They are generally solitary except during mating season. Skunks have terrible eyesight but excellent hearing. They are omnivores, consuming a vast diet of both plant and animal matter. Skunks are opportunistic eaters, and their diets are flexible. They often dine on insects and grubs and like to raid garbage cans and dog/cat food containers. They are also nocturnal, so they are most active at night.
Skunks are excellent diggers and tend to dig holes in lawns, gardens and golf courses in search of grubs and earth worms. They will also dig burrows underneath buildings for shelter. The holes in lawns are small and cone-shaped. Usually about 3-4 inches in diameter. They can damage corn in gardens, knock over garbage cans, raid poultry houses and also honey bee hives. Skunks will steal eggs and occasionally kill a chicken or other fowl and are one of the primary predators of the honey bee.
They can carry contagious diseases, viruses and parasites that can be transmitted to humans and/or pets through a bite. Some of the most serious illnesses include: leptospirosis, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, intestinal roundworm and rabies.
Skunks are known to release a powerful smell through their anal glands when they feel threatened. They usually only attack when cornered or defending their young. Spraying isn’t their first method of defense, they will growl, spit, fluff its fur, shake its tail and stamp the ground first. If the intruder doesn’t leave, the skunk will then lift its tail and spray its famous perfume.
If you pet or family member finds themselves at the losing end of a skunk encounter, the smell will be almost unbearable. Tomato juice, lemon or orange citrus and masking agents like perfume or febreze have not been successful in eliminating the odor.