Eastern Spotted Skunk

The Eastern Spotted Skunk, Spilogale putorius, is one of three species of spotted skunks in the genus Spilogale. Spotted skunks weigh between 1 and 3 pounds. They are black with a white spot on the forehead and interrupted white stripes over its back and sides that give the appearance of spots.

The spotted skunk protects itself by spraying a strong and unpleasant scent. Two glands on the sides of the anus release the odorous oil through nipples. When threatened, the skunk turns its body into a U-shape with the head and anus facing the attacker. Muscles around the nipples of the scent gland aim them, giving the skunk great accuracy on targets up to 15 feet away. As a warning before spraying, the skunk stamps its front feet, raising its tail, and hissing. They may warn with a unique “hand stand”””the back vertical and the tail waving. Skunks store about 1 tablespoon of the odorous oil and can quickly spray five times in row. It takes about one week to replenish the oil.

The female gives birth to between two and six young and she may have two litters per year. The newborn skunks are covered with fine hair that shows the adult color pattern. The eyes open between 30 and 32 days. The kits start solid food at about 42 days and are weaned at about two months. They are full grown and reach adult size at about four months. The males do not help in raising the young. When grown, skunks live a solitary life. During the winter months, they may share dens. Skunks squabble and fight with each other, scratching and biting, but, interestingly, they do not spray each other.

Skunks are omnivorous and will eat small rodents, fruits, berries, birds, eggs, insects and larvae, lizards, snakes, and carrion. They have a keen sense of smell that helps them find grubs and other food. Their hearing is acute but they have poor vision. The main predator of the skunk is the great horned owl. Others are the coyote and the dog. The greatest number of skunk deaths occurs from being run over by automobiles. About half of all skunks live only 1 to 2 years in the wild.