The Spotted Skunk
The spotted skunk defends itself with a pungent, sulphurous liquid sprayed from its anal glands. Its striking coat coloration warns larger predators not to attack it.
While most small mammals run or hide from danger, the spotted skunk treats its enemies to a deliberately bold show of defense, backed by a devastating chemical weapon. The skunk’s bold black and white markings inform other animals that it is not an easy target. The spotted skunk’s forward facing eyes give good binocular vision, typical of carnivores. The spotted skunk has proportionally larger carnassial teeth than other skunks. Carnassial teeth are used to slice through flesh. Each skunk has a unique pattern, which helps individuals recognize each other; it also helps predators to spot and avoid, the skunk.
The spotted skunk is an adaptable hunter. It ranges over brush country, woodland, open pasture, stony and desert terrain, even in urban areas. It’s rarely found in wetland habitats or dense forests. The spotted skunk is common around farms, where there are plenty of suitable den sites and an abundance of rats and mice. In areas with very cold winters, the spotted skunk may retreat to its snug den for extended periods of sleep, but it does not actually hibernate.
Although small, the spotted skunk is the most carnivorous of all skunks, It preys at night on small mammals, small birds and insects, but also eats grains and green vegetation. Mammals remain the main prey in spring but the number of insects and small invertebrates eaten begins to increase. Insects are the predominant prey in summer, the skunk also eats an increasing amount of vegetation. Plant food, such as fruit and berries, is important in early autumn. As this becomes more scarce, mammals once more become the favored prey.
Spotted skunks breed at different times, depending on where they live. Females can delay the implantation of fertilized eggs in the womb, so births occur when food is plentiful. The female usually gives birth to about six pups. For about eight weeks, the pups feed on their mother’s milk. When they are weaned, she brings them live prey and teaches them to hunt for themselves. The pups anal glands are working at one month and they reach adult size at about four months old.
The spotted skunk is solitary. Meetings between individuals are often hostile: spotted skunks only come together to mate and even then encounters may be aggressive. Unlike most small animals which rely on camouflage to hide from predators, the skunk uses a high profile defense strategy. Glands in its anal tracts produce a foul smelling, sulphurous liquid that can be sprayed 10-23” to stop most attackers in their tracks. This weapon is even used in fights between skunks. Only the great horned owl seems immune to the repellent spray.
The spotted skunk is common and copes notoriously well in an environment with an ever increasing human presence.