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General Skunk Information

Skunks are members of the weasel family. There are four species of skunk in North America: striped skunks, hooded skunks, spotted skunks, and scarce hog-nosed skunks.

Skunks are nocturnal and begin foraging at sunset. Skunks are omnivorous and help keep the rodent population down. They often travel 5-10 miles within their territory at night looking for field mice, rats and other small rodents as well as lizards, frogs, birds, eggs, garbage and fallen fruit.

They also dig for insects, grubs, especially beetles, larvae, and earthworms. Their diet includes black widow spiders, brown recluse spiders and scorpions. Skunks are carrion eaters, helping keep roadways and neighborhoods clean. An estimated 75 percent of a skunk's diet consists of insects considered harmful to humans.

There are four different kinds of skunks found in the USA. The spotted and striped skunks are the most widely distributed and therefore are more likely to come into contact with humans. The hooded and hog-nosed skunks are more rare and found mostly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The spotted skunk prefers a country setting and spends most of its life near farms. The striped skunk is more adaptable and lives in a variety of suburban habitats.

Skunks try very hard not to get in harm’s way. They have a home range of a few hundred acres at most. They are primarily nocturnal and usually solitary – except when mothers are raising their young. They are active all year, but in northern states, they spend the coldest parts of the winter in their dens.

Facts About Skunks

  • Skunks are omnivores, which mean that they can eat both animals & plants.
  • They eat fruits, insects, worms, grubs, reptiles and rodents.
  • Skunks often attack a bees hive because they eat honeybees.
  • Skunks are small 10-14 pound animals that reach 8-19 inches in length.
  • The two glands near their anus produce a smelly substance that is released when the skunk feels threatened.
  • The skunks substance is not harmful for the victims, but they will not be able to get rid of the smell for a few days.
  • Before a skunk sprays it’s victim the skunk will turn its back, lift it’s tail, start hissing and stumping with its feet.
  • A skunk can spray its oily and smelly substance 8-12 feet in distance.
  • The skunks worst enemies are coyotes, bobcats, owls and rowdy dogs.
  • Male skunks are called bucks, females are does, and baby skunks are kits
  • Skunks can survive the most poisonous snake bite
  • Skunks have poor eyesight, but they have an excellent sense of smell and hearing
  • Skunks can only run 10 miles per hour
  • A skunks pregnancy lasts between 7 and 10 weeks and the female gives birth to 2-10 babies.
  • A mother skunk takes care of her babies
  • Skunks can transmit rabies
  • Skunks live 3-4 years in the wild
  • Skunks can survive 10-12 years in captivity

Some Diseases directly transmitted by Skunks

  • Rabies
  • Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
  • Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome
  • Leptospirosis
  • Plague
  • Rat-Bite Fever
  • Salmonellosis

Damage

Skunks become a nuisance when their digging, burrowing and feeding habits conflict with humans. They may burrow under porches or buildings or dig under homes with crawl spaces. Garbage left outdoors may be disturbed by skunks. Skunks will damage beehives by attempting to feed on bees. Skunks dig holes in lawns, golf courses, and gardens to search for insects, grubs and earthworms found in the soil. Digging normally appears as small as 3- to 4-inch cone-shaped holes or patches of upturned earth.

Skunks will also kill poultry and eat eggs. They normally will not climb fences to get to poultry. If skunks gain access, they will normally feed on the eggs and kill the fowl.

The hind and forefeet of skunks have five toes. In most cases, the fifth toe may not be obvious. The claw marks are normally visible, but the heels of the forefeet normally are not. The hind feet tracks are approximately 2 1/2 inches. Skunk droppings can often be identified by the undigested insect parts they leave behind. Droppings are 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter and 1 to 2 inches long.

Odor is not always an indicator of the presence or absence of skunks. Sometimes dogs, cats, or other animals that have been sprayed by a skunk move under a house or building and make owners mistakenly think skunks are present.

Rabies may be carried by skunks. Skunks are the primary carriers of rabies in the Midwest area. When a rabies outbreak occurs, the ease with which rabid animals can be contacted increases. Therefore, rabid skunks are prime vectors for the spread of the rabies virus. Avoid aggressive skunks that approach without hesitation. Any skunk showing abnormal behaviors, such as daytime activity, may be rabid and should be treated with extreme caution.

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