Skunks of all kinds can now be found practically anywhere, thanks to climate change and the introduction of exotic pets. Exploring What type of skunk is that helps you identify skunk species that may assemble in huge numbers on your property or even under your house.
Keep reading to know more about the fascinating skunks of the Animal Kingdom.
Table of Contents
What type of skunk is that?
While such characteristics are largely consistent across the Mephitidae family, the 12 species of Mephitidae differ widely in appearance.
Conepatus (hog-nosed skunks), Mephitis (skunks), Spilogale (spotted skunks), and Mydaus (mydaus) are all members of the same family as skunks and stink badgers (stink badgers).
They are generally found in the Western Hemisphere and prefer a variety of environments, including forest edges, woodlands, meadows, and deserts.
Skunks are omnivores that can survive on insects, larvae, rodents, lizards, berries, roots, grasses, mushrooms, and nuts, among other things.
Regardless of the pattern, the black-and-white shading serves as a warning to anyone who might threaten this tiny creature.
Skunks possess a powerful defense mechanism in the form of toxic scents produced by well-developed scent glands.
The 12 varieties of skunks include:
- Hooded skunk
- Striped skunk
- Eastern spotted skunk
- Southern spotted skunk
- Western spotted skunk
- Pygmy spotted skunk
- Striped hog-nosed skunk
- American hog-nosed skunk
- Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunk
- Molina’s hog-nosed skunk
- Indonesian stink badger
- The Palawan stink badger
Skunk: the basic characteristics
Twelve different species of skunks exhibit diverse traits but share certain general characteristics.
The skunk’s diet varies depending on the type of skunk, their location, and what is available to them.
However, all skunks are opportunistic omnivores and will eat both meat and vegetation.
Their diet typically includes plants, insects, larvae, worms, fruit and vegetables, eggs, reptiles, small mammals, and fish.
This diet allows them to live in a variety of environments.
The United States, Canada, South America, and Mexico are all common dwellings of these little stinkers. In Indonesia and the Philippines, stink badgers, distant relatives of skunks, can be found.
Skunks can be spotted on the margins of forests, woodlands, grasslands, and deserts.
They prefer abandoned burrows, but they will also reside in abandoned houses, under huge boulders, and within hollow logs.
Skunks are very industrious creatures and will often dig their dens. They make their dens in hollow logs and other places where they can be safe from predators.
They are also known for being excellent climbers.
Skunks are usually nocturnal, meaning they are primarily active at night.
These mammalians also have a variety of interesting habits, including marking their territory with scent.
Skunks are also one of the few animals that can spray accurately from their eyes.
Skunks are known for their foul-smelling spray. Though they are not particularly aggressive, they tend to release this spray as a deterrent when feeling threatened.
They are equipped with special glands underneath their tails that produce an oily liquid known as skunk musk.
This liquid is used for defense and can cause temporary blindness and respiratory problems in some animals.
It is important to stay cautious and never try to touch or pet them.
Types of skunks
The border classification includes twelve species of skunks, but these five types stand out the most and are the most likely to be spotted on your property.
Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Striped skunks, scientifically known as Mephitis mephitis, are one of the most common types of skunks in North America.
They are commonly found in suburban neighborhoods and are usually about the size of a house cat.
Striped skunks have black fur with conspicuous white stripes on their snouts and a white v-shaped pattern on the back of their bodies. They possess a bushy tail with a white tip.
Mephitis has a very distinctive smell, which is why they are also called polecats.
Hooded Skunk (Mephitis macroura)
Mephitis macroura, or the hooded skunk, is a mammal found in Mexico and the southwestern United States.
They are most commonly found in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Texas.
The Hooded skunks vary greatly in terms of their fur patterns, with some having almost no stripes and others with two white stripes running down their back.
They are also distinguished by having a ruff of white fur around their necks, which gives them a “hooded” appearance.
These skunks prefer to live along with the stream courses and are usually spotted on the hunt just after sunset.
Interestingly, The hooded skunk is the only North American mammal with a functional mole on its back. This adaptation helps the skunks burrow underground and hunt for prey.
Western Spotted Skunk (Spilogale gracilis)
The Western Spotted Skunk is a small, black and white skunk found throughout the Western region of the United States.
They are common in many different habitats, including forests, grasslands, and deserts.
The Western Spotted Skunk typically has red, brown, or black fur.
Their black and white stripes make them widely recognizable.
Three white stripes run lengthwise along the front half of these skunks’ bodies, and three white stripes run vertically down the back section of their bodies.
The stripes are so varied that it gives the appearance of spots, which is how Western Spotted Skunk gets its name.
Eastern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius)
Eastern spotted skunks are common in eastern regions of North America. They are also among the most widespread skunks, found as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Central America.
Eastern spotted skunks can be found in a variety of habitats, from forests to grasslands to agricultural land.
They are identifiable by their black fur with white markings on their forehead, chest, and back.
Male skunks wander during mating season—primarily March and April—so you’re most likely to see them in urban or suburban areas during those months.
American Hog-nosed Skunk (Conepatus leuconotus)
The American Hog-nosed Skunk is a skunk found in the Southwest region of the United States.
They are herbivores and primarily eat insects but can also survive on small mammals and reptiles.
The American hog-nosed skunk is identified by its white tail stripe and distinct broad “hog-like” nose.
American Hog-nosed is also known for being one of the largest in North America, making it easy to distinguish it from other species of skunks.
Why You Need to Know Your Skunks
You might wonder about the necessity of reflecting on, What type of skunk is that in the first place.
Well, knowing the different types of skunks is important for identification purposes and helps one understand how to prevent encounters with these animals.
In the event that you encounter a skunk, it is important to be able to identify the species. You may be sprayed or worse if you are ignorant of the various varieties of these wandering, opportunist mammals.
In general, skunks spray when they feel threatened or angry.
There are four different types of skunks – striped, hooded, spotted, and hog-nosed. Each type of skunk has its unique markings, habits, and way of spraying.
- Spotted skunk generally stomp their feet before it sprays.
- The striped skunk will curl its tail before it sprays.
- The hooded will arch its back and puff up its fur.
- While the hog-nosed skunk will hiss and growl before spraying.
Skunk Pros and Cons
Depending on your perspective, having skunks on your property can be positive or negative.
Many types of dangerous agricultural and horticultural pests, such as root-damaging grubs, are eaten by them.
Skunks are particularly useful in rural settings, where they eat grain-infesting and disease-carrying rats and mice.
On the other hand, skunks are scavengers and will eat everything you have lying about. Skunks have been known to eat corn stalks, steal poultry or eggs, and even destroy beehives on farms.
Their digging can be a nuisance in metropolitan areas, causing holes on lawns, gardens, and golf courses. Skunk holes range from one to three inches in diameter and depth.
The holes may shift from one point to another each night in their search for grubs and insects.
Skunk Control Measures
Skunks have a strong spray defense, although they will only spray if they are surprised, cornered, hurt, or protect their young ones.
Thereby occasional sightings need not be a particular cause of alarm. Skunks are nomadic, so most concerns about them living under sheds, porches, and outbuildings are quickly dispelled: skunks move on.
Modifying the area around your home to make it less appealing to skunks is the most efficient strategy to avoid confrontations.
Do not feed skunks.
While they are generally harmless, it is important to remember not to feed skunks.
Feeding them can create undesirable situations for you, your family, pets, and neighborhood.
When people feed skunks, they often lose their fear of humans.
This can cause the skunks to congregate in unnaturally high numbers and increases the likelihood that they will spread diseases or parasites.
Prevent access to denning sites.
You can undertake a few steps to prevent skunks from accessing the denning sites, such as houses, porches, and sheds.
One is to install sturdy barriers around potential entrances, like fences or wire mesh; this will help keep the skunks from being able to enter and create their dens in that area.
You can also try to remove any food sources that might be attracting the skunks, like pet food or compost piles.
Protect your pets.
Skunks are enlisted amongst the primary carriers of rabies in North America.
Therefore, monitor your pets to keep them from coming in contact with a skunk.
Prevent damage to lawns
Skunks can be deterred from entering your yard in a number of ways.
One way to do this is by laying down 1-inch mesh chicken wire around the area or installing mini floppy fences to prevent skunks from climbing in.
You can also try using deterrents like ammonia or mothballs, but these methods may not be as effective as the fence.
Skunks in or Under Buildings
- When a skunk breaks into your home, garage, or other structure, remain calm and close all but one outside entrance, allowing the animal to exist independently. If required, hold a large towel or a large piece of plastic or cardboard in front of you to slowly urge the skunk to travel in a chosen direction.
- In case the skunk appears aggressive, get out of there right away. If you use food as a lure, the animal will associate feeding with humans and will come back for more.
- Clean and disinfect your yard and get rid of any garbage, such as timber, wooden boards, rock piles, and other items that could attract skunks.
- If you live in a neighborhood where skunks are prevalent, clean up trash and, if possible, don’t put pet food outside; this will also help control rodents, which are a favorite food source for skunks.
- If you spot a skunk appearing to be sick or injured on your property, immediately contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center for help.
- Should you find skunks dwelling under your house or garage, you may always contact pest control experts who can provide treatments adapted to your needs.
Skunk activity can be beneficial at times, but it can also spiral out of control swiftly. They can become pests in your yard and house as they wander about for food, water, and shelter.
Recognition and, therefore, control can be extremely beneficial.
Hopefully, the information in this expert guide will help you get insight into the world of many skunk species.