Skunks are mammals that belong to the family Mephitidae and their family is generally composed of 11 species. Out of them, 9 Skunk species are found in the Western Hemisphere.
Did you know about their ability to spray an oily liquid with a strong and unpleasant smell accurately from their anal glands? Well, now you know that this is a unique characteristic behavior of Skunks!
Depending upon their varied species, the physical appearances of Skunks range from black and white to brown or creamy and ginger color. However, all the Skunk species are known to have ‘warning coloration’.
Their sizes also depend upon their varied species. Skunks are generally related to Polecats and other creatures of the Weasel family.
Skunks are usually solitary creatures that are known to live alone. They are also known to live in a variety of habitats including deserts, forests, and mountains. Let’s explore and discover some of the most fascinating facts concerning the lives and features of Skunks!
29 Interesting Facts About Skunks
This article intends to provide the 29 most fascinating and interesting facts about Skunks. These relate to their lives, livelihood, lifespan, distinctive features, feeding habits, peculiar characteristics, and their differences with that of Raccoons, Cats, Squirrels, and Porcupines.
1. What Are Skunks Attracted To?
Like any other creatures, Skunks are generally attracted towards areas with a suitable or comfortable shelter and adequate food and water supply.
Skunks are opportunistic foragers and that is the reason why they are attracted to anything that is available to them including garbage and pet food. Your yard definitely attracts Skunks if these items are left outside at night.
Bird seeds and sunflower seeds are two items that attract Skunks the most. Sites that are convenient for Skunks to make their dens, such as woodpiles, elevated sheds, or openings under slabs and spaces, can also attract Skunks.
2. What To Feed Baby Skunks?
The dietary preference of a baby skunk usually includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc. Therefore, if you find an orphan baby Skunk, you need to look after their nutrient requirements on the basis of their age and feed them accordingly.
Just after birth, baby Skunks usually feed on 2-2.5 ml of formula 5-6 times a day. Esbilac formula can be given to these newly born baby Skunks. As they grow older, increasing the amount of the formula and decreasing the number of feeding times is required.
When these babies grow 5-6 months old, they can be introduced to other food items such as softened dog food, milk, and various fruits, vegetables, and bugs in order to prepare them for their survival in the wild.
When they are 7 months old, encourage them to eat more and more dog food, vegetation, and bugs since their protein requirements need to be fulfilled at this stage.
3. What Do Skunks Eat?
Skunks are omnivorous creatures that are at the same time, opportunistic foragers. This means that Skunks feed on anything and everything that is readily available and accessible to them.
The feeding habits and preferences of Skunks include feeding on both vegetation and insects.
They generally feed on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, leaves, grains, and insects such as cockroaches, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, mice, moles, bees, worms, etc. Because of their opportunistic feeding behavior, they tend to feed even on garbage and pet foods.
4. Where Do Skunks Live?
Skunks usually prefer to live in habitats that include forest edges, woodlands, grasslands, and deserts. These creatures are well-accustomed to living in both wilderness and areas with civilization-like cities or urban habitats.
The Striped Skunk is native to North America and is also found throughout the United States, Northern Mexico, and Southern and Central Canada.
Skunks generally live in dens that are seldom abandoned by other creatures, but they can even dig their own dens with the help of their sharp front claws. These Skunk dens might look like holes dug in your backyard or garden.
5. How Long Do Skunks Live?
Skunks generally have a very short lifespan because of the fact that most of them die in their first year of life. On average, a Skunk can generally live for around 3 years in the wild and 7-10 years in captivity.
Because of various reasons such as roadside accidents, predators, and diseases, Skunks have a very short lifespan in the wild.
However, they usually survive for a much longer period when they are kept in captivity. Proper care and nourishment can increase their life expectancy even more than 10 years.
6. When Do Skunks Come Out?
Skunks are generally nocturnal creatures by nature, that is they come out primarily during the night hours and head off to their dens around dawn.
Skunks are sometimes referred to as crepuscular creatures since they remain highly active during dawn and dusk of the day. They usually come out during the dusk and get inside their dens during the dawn before sunrise.
7. Where Do Skunks Go in Winter?
Skunks don’t hibernate in winters, rather they slow down considerably and become dormant as soon as the temperature starts to fall. During this time, they generally take shelter deep into their dens.
During winters, Skunks generally build their dens in underground burrows, hollow logs, and under buildings. They often tend to block the entrance of their dens with the help of leaves, grasses, and bushes.
They seldom spend the winters in groups in order to keep themselves warm. The Striped Skunk generally enters dormancy when the temperature falls considerably.
Skunks spend the season before winters eating everything that is available to them in order to build up an extra layer of fat inside their bodies which they utilize during the winter months when they don’t have access to food supplements.
8. What Eats Skunks?
Foxes, Cougars, Coyotes, and Domestic Dogs are some of the creatures that hunt and feed on Skunks. However, due to the unpleasant scent of Skunk natural defense spray, these predators seldom try to kill and hunt Skunks down and feed on them.
They are compelled to do so only if they don’t have any other options available. Skunks also have some aerial predators such as the Red-tailed Hawks and the Great-horned Owls.
Do People Eat Skunks?
Yes! Skunks are edible and according to historical records, native Americans used to hunt and eat Skunks regularly since they provide a huge source of nutrients. If certain conditions are followed while hunting Skunks, they may serve as a decent meal for many.
9. What Do Skunks Do for The Environment?
Although Skunks are sometimes seen as a nuisance because of their tendency to spray an unpleasant smelling liquid towards their predators, they are actually beneficial to the farmers, gardeners, and the environment.
They are known to feed on numerous agricultural and garden pests, including mice, voles, beetles, various larvae, etc., which in turn helps the farmers and gardeners to get rid of those pests that infect their fields and gardens.
Also, they clean the surroundings by scavenging and feeding on roadside litter. Skunks, therefore, keep the environment neat and help in rejuvenating the surroundings.
10. How Long Can a Skunk Live Without Food?
A Skunk can generally survive for about three to seven days without food and a few days without water.
However, they aren’t capable of surviving even that long during the summer or fall, i.e when they are most active, since they require more nutrients and food at this time of the year.
They don’t hibernate, rather they spend their winters in dormancy and utilize the fat stored in the summers for their survival. Therefore they are capable of surviving for a longer period without food in the winter months than they can in the summers or fall.
11. How Long Do Skunks Stay in One Place?
Skunks are usually solitary creatures that roam about from one place to another in search of better food and shelter availability. During late summers, Skunks stay for a few days in one place.
However, Skunks stay longer in one place when they have baby Skunks with them. The baby Skunks usually remain in their den for about 8 weeks from the time of their birth. Also, Skunks stay longer at one place in their dormancy during the winters.
12. How Many Babies Do Skunks Have at Once?
A mother Skunk generally gives birth to 2 to 10 babies at once. These babies generally stay with their mother for 8 weeks in a den and then disperse independently.
Skunks generally have a gestation period of about 59 to 77 days. The timeframe falling in between the months of February and April is generally their breeding season.
From the time of their birth throughout their growing years, the baby Skunks are solely dependent on their mother’s protection and care. The male Skunks usually don’t play any significant role in parenting the baby Skunks.
13. How High Can Skunks Climb?
Skunks can generally climb up to 6 feet high. However, their capability of climbing depends upon their varied species since not all the subspecies of Skunks are excellent climbers.
Striped Skunks aren’t good at climbing since their stocky bodies are not equipped for balancing and climbing, rather their strong legs and tough claws help them in digging and catching bugs.
On the other hand, Spotted Skunks are excellent climbers since their smaller bodies and claws have adapted to provide extensive climbing capabilities. Striped Skunks can climb up to 1.5 feet, whereas Spotted Skunks are capable of climbing fences up to 6 feet.
14. What Does Skunk Smell Like?
Skunks don’t have unpleasant scents of their own, rather it is their spray that smells overpowering and unpleasant. Skunk spray generally smells more or less like rotten eggs or onions.
Skunk spray generally contains sulfur-based organic compounds known as thiols. These compounds cause an unpleasant smell. A Skunk’s spray also contains chemical compounds called thioacetals. It’s because of the thioacetals present in Skunk spray that makes the smell stay longer.
15. Why Are Skunks Called Polecats?
In the southern United States dialect, Skunks are also referred to as Polecats. This is primarily because of their similarities with that of European native Polecats or Wild Ferret.
Both Skunks and Polecats emit unpleasant scents from their bodies and look similar. Because of their similarity, traditionally many English speakers mistook Skunks for Polecats and gradually they became popularly known as Polecats.
16. How Much Does A Skunk Cost?
Keeping Skunks as pets can be quite expensive, especially during their first year. The cost of Skunk babies varies between $150 and $500. Neuter Skunks can even cost as much as $250.
In addition to this, spendings on pet supplements such as cages, litter boxes, beds, daily food supplements, and other materials increase the overall cost of keeping Skunks as a pet at your house.
In order to keep Skunks as your pet, verify if it is legal to own a pet Skunk where you live and at the same time buy the pet Skunk from a licensed breeder.
17. Are Skunks Smart?
Yes, Skunks are known to be quite smart, sensitive, and intelligent creature that usually has a playful temperament.
Skunks generally make great pets when they are raised in captivity because of their uniqueness and intelligence. They have the special capability to spray unpleasant scents towards their predators when they feel like being in danger.
They are intelligent and at the same time smart enough to utilize their skills and capabilities in order to sustain and protect themselves.
18. What Does a Group of Skunks Is Called?
Generally, a group of Skunks is called a ‘surfeit’.
Although Skunks are solitary creatures and are primarily spotted spending time alone, they tend to stay in groups at the time when they gather to mate during their breeding season.
They are also seen spending time together in a group during winters when temperatures drop considerably in order to keep themselves warm and comfortable.
19. Do Skunks Bite?
Skunks have sharp pointed teeth that make them capable of biting whenever they feel threatened by people or other creatures. While they can bite, they rarely choose to do so.
Several incidents of Skunks biting humans and other creatures have been recorded. If a Skunk bites a human then that can result in serious infection with rabies or other diseases.
Skunks are therefore a disease-transmitting medium that can cause several infectious diseases in humans. However, since their main defense mechanism is emitting unpleasant scents and spraying their attackers, they rarely tend to bite.
20. Do Skunks and Cats Get Along?
Since Skunks are quite unaggressive creatures, they can surely get along with Cats. However, it should be remembered that their individual behaviors depend solely on that particular situation.
In spite of the fact that Skunks and Cats can get along, the situation becomes problematic when Feral Tom Cats and Skunks start fighting over territory.
Also, if Skunks feel threatened or cornered, they can definitely cause tremendous damage to Cats and other creatures. Skunks can even cause harm to kittens and therefore they should be kept away from kittens beforehand.
21. What Age Do Skunks Start Spraying?
Skunks can produce their scent at birth, however, by the age of around 3-4 months, they develop matured anal glands that enable them to spray with accuracy.
Moreover, it should be noted that the older the Skunks get the better is their spraying accuracy. Skunks usually spray when they are in danger or feel threatened, cornered, and in pain.
They spray unpleasant scents towards their predators with perfect accuracy so that they can easily protect themselves. Skunks generally get matured enough to spray accurately before they attain the maturity to reproduce.
22. Why Do Skunks Spray at Night?
Skunks spray at their attackers when they feel startled, threatened, or cornered. The ability to spray is the primary defense mechanism that helps them in their survival and protects them from their predators.
Since Skunks are nocturnal creatures, they forage for food at night and rest during the daytime. This nocturnal behavior of Skunks automatically increases the risk of coming in contact with their predators.
Thus, Skunks generally seem to be spraying a lot more at night compared to that of the usual daytime. This is simply because they are more active at night and are thus more prone to dangers and predator encounters.
23. Can Skunks Spray on Concrete?
This may sound weird and astonishing but Yes, Skunks can not only spray onto concrete structures, rather can wreak havoc damage to it.
Apparently concrete may seem quite a heavy-duty material, but it’s also porous. The oils present in a Skunk’s spray can permeate it.
If a Skunk decides to spray onto concrete structures, then that can give you a stinking garage, driveway, or patio. Skunks have the capability of spraying onto anything that’s making it feel startled, threatened, or cornered. Thus, Skunks are known to spray on concrete.
24. How Far Away Can You Smell a Skunk?
People can generally smell the spray of a Skunk from up to 3.5 miles away if the wind conditions are right. The strength of the smell indicates how close the Skunk is.
The muscles that are located next to a Skunk’s anal scent glands allow them to spray at their attackers with accuracy and precision.
A Skunk’s spray is capable of warding off potential predators such as bears, foxes, badgers, wolves, etc. According to Wikipedia, Skunks carry chemicals that can be used for five to six successive sprays, i.e about 15 cm³, and they usually require about 10 days to produce another supply.
25. How Long Does a Skunk Smell Last After It Dies?
If a dead Skunk is not removed within a stipulated time, then it can result in an unimaginable odor persisting in the area for several weeks or months.
A Skunk generally releases an unpleasant scent at the time of its death because of its reflex reaction and fear. This smell of a Skunk spray can stay for several months if not years! Porous items, such as clothes, may need total disposal of them.
26. Skunk Vs Raccoon
Skunks and Raccoons generally share their similarities in behaviors and characteristic features. Both these nocturnal creatures, however, are two distinctive animals with far more differences than similarities!
Skunks are creatures that belong to the family Mephitidae, but Raccoons on the other hand are creatures that belong to the family Procyonidae.
The chief differences between these creatures are their unique peculiarities and differences in physical appearances and nature. Skunks generally have soft, black hairs with white stripes running down through their back. They have short legs with large feet and well-developed claws that assist them in digging.
Raccoons generally have a clear black “mask” over their eyes and a highly furred tail. Raccoons are generally larger in size than Skunks.
Also, Skunks spray unpleasant scents towards their predators in self-defense. Whereas Raccoons try to fight furiously and defend themselves violently against their opponents or predators.
27. Skunk Vs Cat
Skunks and Cats belong to the same order Carnivora, however, these creatures are two totally different animals. Even though there are a few similarities between the two, the differences are far more than their commonalities.
They have no similarity in their physical appearances, rather their sizes differ according to their varied species.
Moreover, Cats don’t have the capability to spray unpleasant scents towards their attackers as a defense mechanism which the Skunks are capable of doing against their predators.
28. Skunk Vs Squirrel
Skunks and Squirrels are two totally distinctive creatures that have extremely distant relations. While Skunks are more closely related to Badgers and Weasels, Squirrels are rodents that share no common ancestry with Skunks.
Being two distinctive creatures, Skunks and Squirrels differ in nearly every aspect, including physical appearances, characteristic features, and behavioral tendencies.
Skunks are naturally gifted with the exceptional capability to spray unpleasant scents towards their natural predators as a defense mechanism which Squirrels aren’t capable of doing. Moreover, the individual differences between Skunks and Squirrels depend on their diverse species.
29. Porcupine Vs Skunk
Porcupines and Skunks are two totally distinct creatures. While Skunks belong to the order Carnivora, Porcupines, on the other hand, belong to the order Rodentia. In spite of their similarities in size and color, they differ from each other considerably.
In respect of physical appearance, Skunks are generally smaller in size than Porcupines and have soft furry bodies with white stripes.
Porcupines, on the other hand, are large-sized rodents that have coats of sharp spines or quills. These quills assist Porcupines in their self-defense against predators and attackers.
Skunks, as we have already noted, utilize their extraordinary ability to spray in order to protect themselves from their natural predators.