Skunk

Family: Mephitidae
Order: Carnivora

Skunks are members of the weasel family. They are represented by four species in North America and are primarily known for emitting a foul smelling odor during times of distress. The most common species found in Canada and the Northern United States is the Striped Skunk, recognized by the prominent, lateral white stripes which run down its back and tail.

 

Skunk Identification

The most common species found in Canada and the Northern United States is the Striped Skunk, recognized by the prominent, lateral white stripes which run down its back and tail. This skunk weighs approximately 3.5 kg (8 lb.) and can reach up to 29 cm (12 in.) in body length. It has short and stocky legs, and large feet with well developed claws which enable it to be a very good digger. It is mostly active at night and feeds primarily on insects and small mammals such as mice, shrews and moles.

Skunk Habitat

When skunks are not living beneath your front porch, shed or garage, they may be found in clearings, pastures and open areas bordering forests. They may establish dens in hollow logs, however prefer to burrow in the ground to form a den. They usually do not wander more than 2 to 5 km (1 to 3 miles) from their dens.

Skunk Life Cycle

Skunks can live for up to 10 years, however, they normally don't live much longer than 3 years in the wild. Breeding begins around late February and early March. Females will give birth once per year, and litters may consist of between 2 and 16 young, however, 2 to 6 young is more common. Older females will have their litters in the first part of May, whereas yearling females will give birth in early June.

Skunk Prevention

This skunk weighs approximately 3.5 kg (8 lb.) and can reach up to 29 cm (12 in.) in body length. It has short and stocky legs, and large feet with well developed claws which enable it to be a very good digger. It is mostly active at night and feeds primarily on insects and small mammals such as mice, shrews and moles.

Skunk - Questions and Answers

Are skunks dangerous?

Under normal circumstances, no. Skunks are very mild mannered and avoid people and other animals. They are, however, very confident fighters and can be quite vicious if provoked or harmed. Skunks are more of a nuisance than a danger; however, they are common carriers of the rabies virus. Family pets that encounter rabid skunks may become infected and consequently become dangerous to family members. Make sure your pet has been vaccinated against rabies.

How is a rabid skunk recognized?

Skunks which are active in the daytime, overly aggressive and approach humans without hesitation may be considered potentially rabid. If you happen to see a skunk which behaves in this manner, report the animal to your local animal control authorities as soon as possible.

What kind of damage will skunks do?

Skunks in urban environments burrow beneath porches or buildings, usually through existing openings, to find shelter. They will also dig holes in lawns, golf courses and gardens in search for grubs. Skunks will disturb garbage cans and snack on their contents, and feed on garden vegetables, particularly the lower ears of corn. Skunks have been known to enter poultry houses, destroy and feed on eggs, and occasionally kill chickens. More than anything, though, skunks are known to create a very obnoxious odor when they discharge, or spray, a particularly nauseating musk from their anal glands.

When will skunks spray?

Skunks will spray when they are alarmed or distressed. This usually occurs during conflicts with other animals, such as your pet dog or cat. They are capable of several discharges.

If I smell a skunk, does that mean a skunk is nearby?

No. Odor is not a reliable indicator of their presence. Their musk is released when they are hit by cars and the smell can carry for several kilometers. Also, a dog or cat which has been sprayed may be mistakenly identified, through smell, as a skunk.

How long do skunks live and how often do they reproduce?

Skunks can live for up to 10 years, however, they normally don't live much longer than 3 years in the wild. Breeding begins around late February and early March. Females will give birth once per year, and litters may consist of between 2 and 16 young, however, 2 to 6 young is more common. Older females will have their litters in the first part of May, whereas yearling females will give birth in early June.

Where do skunks live?

When skunks are not living beneath your front porch, shed or garage, they may be found in clearings, pastures, and open areas bordering forests. They may establish dens in hollow logs, however prefer to burrow in the ground to form a den. They usually do not wander more than 2 to 5 km (1 to 3 miles) from their dens.

How can I prevent skunks from establishing themselves on my property?

Skunks can be deterred from digging beneath structures by filling in all foundation openings with wire screening, concrete or sheet metal. They can be kept off of your property by burying fencing between 0.4 and 0.6 m (16 and 24 in.) in the soil in order to prevent access by digging.

Sanitation is very important. Keeping your property free from lumber, garbage and other debris will discourage their presence. Garbage cans should be equipped with right-fitting lids and should be secured against capsizing.

If a skunk enters a building on your property, keep all entrances closed except one main door and the skunk will normally leave on its own.


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