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Location and Habitat

Striped skunks can be found throughout North America, extending north to central Canada and south into northern Mexico. They are commonly found in populated areas because it is easy for them to find shelter. They also forage for food in trashcans and dumpsters. Skunks are rarely found more than two miles from a source of water. They prefer to live in areas with a combination of grasslands or meadows with woodlands.


Diet

Striped skunks are omnivores and will eat almost anything that an animal would generally consume. Their diet includes insects, nuts, fish, small vertebrates, fruits, leaves, grasses, fungi, berries, and eggs. They will also eat the carcasses of other dead animals and any food they may find in our garbage.


Size and Description

Striped skunks are about the size of an average house cat. They have long, bushy fur which is black with white stripes that start at their forehead and extend down the length of their body in a V shape, meeting again at the base of their tail. Their long, bushy tails are sometimes striped, but more often the tail fur is a mixture of black and white hairs. They have short, stocky legs and small ears.


Reproduction

Skunks generally live alone, only spending short amounts of time together during mating season. They mate in early spring, usually from February through March. After a gestation period of about 60 to 77 days, the female will give birth to a litter of between four and seven young. Baby skunks are called kits. They are extremely immature at the time of birth. They cannot see or hear and will stay in the den and nurse with their mother for about six weeks before starting to venture out with her to learn to live on their own. Kits will leave their mother and siblings at around one year of age.


Adaptations

The skunk's most famous adaptation is its ability to spray a foul-smelling liquid to fend off anything that they consider a threat. The skunk's bold coloration serves as a warning to its predators, but they will usually only spray as a last resort. When a skunk feels threatened, it will first usually issue a series of warnings which include arching its back and its hair standing on end, stomping, and hissing. Skunks also have long, sharp claws on their front paws which are used for digging burrows or digging insects out of the ground.


Special Facts

A skunk's smelly spray is extremely difficult to wash out of whatever it comes into contact with. There are many reported remedies, but the one that seems to work the best is one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, one quarter cup of baking soda, and one teaspoon of liquid soap. It is important to remember that you cannot store this mixture in a bottle, because it will explode.

 
©Photographer: Geoffrey Kuchera
    Classification
    Kingdom: Phylum: Order: Class: Family: Genus: Species: Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mephitidae Mephitis mephitis
           
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