Striped Skunk

Common Name: Striped Skunk.

Scientific Name: Mephitis Mephitis.

What to look for?  For those of us of a certain age, we visualize Pepe Le Pew when we think skunk! And the Striped Skunk fits that image. Skunks are small, black furry animals. They have two broad white stripes on their back that begin at a white cap on the head. They have a thin white stripe down the center of their face. And they have bushy black tails, fringed by, and tipped in white.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Since the Striped Skunk is somewhat nocturnal, they primarily roam after dark around the edges of the vegetation around the ponds or the woodlands.

How big are they? Striped Skunks are approximately thirty (30) inches in length, including their foot-long tails. And they weigh up to ten (10) pounds.

How else do they behave? As with other skunks, the Striped Skunk’s most memorable trait is its odor. When threatened, the skunk will raise its tail and stamp its front feet. If the predator does not back away, the skunk quickly twists its body into a U-shape and sprays the attacker with a range of up to ten (10) feet. The scent from this gland can last for days but isn’t harmful. It is important to remember that most skunks are not aggressive unless they are threatened. Skunks are nocturnal and are seen most often at dusk and in early morning.

What’s for dinner? Skunks are omnivores. They eat both meat and vegetation. Their diet consists of plants, insects, larvae, worms, fruit, eggs, reptiles, small mammals, and fish.

Where do they take up residence? Skunks are found in the United States, southern Canada, South America, and Mexico. Skunks generally live within several miles of water. They can be found in forested areas, grasslands, brush, open prairies and developed areas. They typically make their homes in abandoned burrows, under large rocks and in hollow logs.

When and where do they breed and nest? Skunks use underground dens year-round for resting, hiding, birthing and rearing young. Striped Skunks mate in late February into March. They give birth to approximately four (4) to six (6) young about two (2) months later. The young nurse for six to seven weeks. Young skunks often spend winter with their mother and disperse in spring. Female skunks give birth every year.

Where do they migrate? Striped Skunks do migrate. They also do not hibernate, but they may sleep for extended periods during the winter.

What is their conservation status? No skunk species is currently endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Striped Skunks are listed on the union's Red List of Threatened Species as "Least Concern."

Do they make any interesting sounds? While they are usually silent, Striped Skunks and other skunks do have the ability to produce a variety of sounds. They can squeal, hiss, screech, and stomp loudly. These noises are used to communicate fear and to intimidate predators.

Interesting Facts About Striped Skunks (and other skunks):

  • Baby skunks are called kits.

  • A group of skunks are called a surfeit.

  • The skunk family (Mephitidae) consists of 13 species, almost all of which reside from Southern Canada, into the U.S. and down to South America.

  • Skunks have truly short lives and often live only around three years.

For more information on Striped Skunks and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit LiveScience, University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web, Wild Life Illinois, and Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!