Dig Deeper

Overview Taxonomy

Overview

“Where I live”

Striped skunks live in every region of the United States as well as southern Canada and northern parts of Mexico. They are highly adaptive animals that are found in woodlands, deserts, meadows and even suburban areas.

A striped skunk is one of many Animal Ambassadors at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. These animals participate in education programs on and off Zoo grounds.

“How I live there”

Striped skunks are solitary and crepuscular animals, meaning that they come out alone at dawn and dusk, and into the night, to hunt and forage for food. During the day, they rest in burrows that they dig with their powerful front claws or that they find abandoned by other animals. They may also take shelter in hollow logs or rocky crevices.

When hunting and foraging, skunks sniff among leaves and underbrush and dig with their front claws. They eat plant material, bird eggs, insects, small rodents, frogs, and earthworms. Skunks also scavenge garbage and pet food.

In cold weather, striped skunks don’t actually hibernate but they do slow down and may huddle together in winter dens to keep warm. They sleep more and feed less during the winter.

“Making my mark”

All species of skunk, including striped skunks, have strong black-and-white warning coloration. Other animals recognize the warning coloration and know to steer clear.

A skunk’s footprint looks very much like that of a human baby!

Skunks are diggers. Gardeners are sometimes pestered by overzealous skunks that plow newly-seeded gardens too early! Skunks can be helpful, though, by digging up and eating grubs and insects such as grasshoppers, crickets and cutworms that can ravage crops.

“What eats me”

No animal wants to be sprayed by a skunk, so striped skunks have few predators to fear. Smell aside, the spray can cause eye burning and general sickness. Great horned owls are the main predator of striped skunks, perhaps because they can swoop in before being sprayed and perhaps also because, like other birds, they have a poor-to-nonexistent sense of smell.

Raising Young

Striped skunks mate during February and March. After a gestation period of 59 to 77 days, females give birth to litters of 5 to 8 kits. Mother skunks are highly protective of their young and will attack any predator or stranger that approaches. Kits are born blind. After a few weeks, a mother skunk will start taking her kits on hunting excursions. She will lead and they will follow in a single file line!

Conservation

Striped skunks are common throughout their range.

Taxonomy

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Mephitidae
  • Genera: Mephitis
  • Species: mephitis