Striped Skunk Mephitis mephitis

Stoutly-built, house cat-sized, easily recognizable member of the weasel family.

Basic description: Black coat with a thin white stripe between its eyes and two stripes on its back. Small eyes and a long nose on a stout body very low to the ground.

Length: Body- 25 to 30 in. Tail– 8 to 11 in.

Weight: 3-10 lbs.

Range: southern Canada, northern Mexico, and the U.S. outside of the Colorado Desert

Diet: Includes carrion, invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles, fish, fruit, and nuts

Breeding: mating February-April. Gestation period 60-80 days. Litter 2-12 kits.

Life Expectancy: ~7 years

The first sign of this unassuming creature is usually its putrid smell, which skunks use as a form of defense. They are also frequent diggers, using their sharp, curved claws and excellent sense of smell to root for soil insects, fungi, and small mammals. They will even dig up bee nests and eat them. One skunk was found to have 65 stings in its mouth and throat after raiding a bee nest. Shallow, circular 3-4 inch wide holes in the ground may mean a skunk has been in the area. Skunks raise their young in burrows, which may be located at the base of a fallen tree, under a building, or in an abandoned badger den.

Striped skunks are adaptable mammals that use a variety of habitats for foraging. They are as likely to be found digging in a deep forest as rummaging through human refuse. While these members of the weasel family are nocturnal and rarely seen, forest edge with a variety of insect habitat nearby may be the best place to look for sign.