[ list continues below ]

Striped Skunk - (Mephitis mephitis)

Between 9 and 10 PM a pair of skunks make their nightly appearance and try to clean the sunflower seeds that have fallen on the ground under the feeders.  We try not to make any startling moves or noises in the house since the doors and windows are usually open.

While sitting at my desk, one night, I knew, by the usual  way, that  we had a skunk visitor. Even though I wasn't a threat to him, I was on the receiving end of the warning.

I didn't think any more about him until I pulled into the driveway the following week, shortly after full dark.  Just out of reach of the headlights, I could see a white streak.  It appeared to be a slim white snake, but it seemed to be slithering several inches above ground level.  Switching to high beams, I saw a skunk.  Moving slowly (both of us) I exited the car.  I made it to the house without setting off any of his alarms.

 Turns out that we have at least two skunks- their stripe widths vary greatly.  We had to rig some lights in our side yard to take pictures . When we watch them, even though we're inside , we talk softly and shoo the cats away from the windows. I know we could smell the spray from in here, if we startle a skunk.

November 12, 2008 - This week brought some other visitors to our backyard and front yard.  We have caught opossum, deer and skunks in our headlights on our own driveway.

We set up some lights in our side yard near the pond and took photos of two different skunks, one having much broader white, side strips than the other.  After several nights of watching, we noticed that an opossum also arrived in the yard at the same time, every time (no clear photos of him yet).  He kept a healthy distance from the skunk, and it wasn't clear if the skunk was even aware of the opossum.  Both animals enjoyed the areas under the feeders, especially those sloppy with sunflower seeds.

We were careful not to annoy or startle our new black and white friends and hoped all other nocturnal travelers were equally careful.  Before we ever saw any skunks, we were aware of at least one unhappy, encounter when we smelled the results of his spray.

Size: Head and Body Length: 12-30 in Tail Length: 6.5-15 in Weight: 2-14 lb


Male: Medium sized (similar to a cat) stocky body; glossy black coat; narrow band of white down center of face to the nose; white on crown and nape; two white stripes branching from nape, over the shoulder, down the sides of the body to the rump; black stripe down center of the back; this stripe and the white ones vary in width between skunks; tail has long hairs on the tip and can be all white, all black or a mix of the two; scent glands under the tail; very short legs
Female: Similar to male except smaller
Habitat: Wide range- farmlands, gardens, woodlands, deserts; usually found at forest edges with open areas and near a water source
Diet: Omnivorous, insects, ground nestlings and eggs, small mammals, fruit, corn, vegetation, garbage, and carrion
Family Behavior: Mating Habits: Breeds in February or March; 1 litter
Nests: Burrows under woodpiles, rocks and buildings; abandoned burrows
Young:2-10 (5-7 average) born April or May; blind, deaf, helpless; covered with fine fur, but the color pattern already visible; weighs 7 oz; 3 weeks until eyes open and can now spray; weaned at 8 weeks; independent at 10 weeks, but may stay with mother for a year
Activities: Mostly nocturnal; usually solitary but may share winter den with several others; does not hibernate and emerges on warmer days; fattens for wintering mostly in den; generally walks (no need to run with vile smell for defense); gives warning before spraying by stamping forefeet, hissing and raising fur; spray is an eye-stinging, acrid, yellowish musk; sprays accurately up to 15 feet
Range: Across US and northern Mexico to southern Canada
Predators and Dangers: Great horned owls, hawks and sometimes bobcat and coyote; automobiles
Vocalization or Sounds: Loud rustling sounds rummaging through dead leaves; growls or hisses warnings
Lifespan: 2-3 years in the wild

  • Around the Yard


  Copyright 2008 - 2012 Backyard Birdscapes Inc. All Rights Reseved.