Striped Skunks: More Than Just A Bad Smell

Updated: Mar 3

Most people know a skunk when they see one, and they will probably go to great lengths to avoid coming into close contact with it.

A striped skunk. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Skunks are famous for their ability to keep predators — and any other threats — away with their foul-smelling spray, but they’d rather not. Before resorting to unleashing the stink, they give off warnings, lifting their tails, stomping their feet and growling and hissing.

The skunks we see are in our area are striped skunks, but there are several other skunk species in the world, including spotted skunks, hooded skunks and hog-nosed skunks. Striped skunks are known for their bold white stripes that run from their noses all the way to their tails. The stripes on the skunks are visible when they are born, even before their fur grows in.

Read on to learn more about these animals.

Fun facts

  • The size of a skunk can vary depending on where they live and the time of year. They usually weigh between 1½ pounds and 13 pounds and are between 18 inches and 32 inches long. They lose as much as half their body weight each winter when food is scarce.

  • These animals can live in many different types of habitat, from deserts to forests. They prefer open areas. In Will County and elsewhere, they are common in urban and suburban areas.

  • Skunks eat both plants and animals, but their preferred food is insects. They are scavengers and will eat what is easily available. Around our homes, they will sometimes get into garbage cans or eat pet food stored outdoors.

  • Skunks are well known for their stinky spray, which they use as a defense mechanism. They have the ability to use the spray when they are just 8 days old, which is about two weeks before they are even able to open their eyes.

  • Not many animals hunt skunks or want to eat them. One of the only animals known to eat them are great horned owls, possibly because they do not have a good sense of smell.

  • Skunk is an American Indian term that dates back to the 1600s. Their scientific name is Mephitis mephitis, which translates to “bad odor” in English.

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