The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) belongs to the family Mephitidae (means stench). The skunk’s range includes the continental United States, southern Canada and northern Mexico. Highly adaptable, skunks can be found in a wide variety of habitats from field and forests, agricultural and urban areas.
Skunks wear a coat of pitch black fur with a distinctive broad white strip running down its back, making them uniquely easy to identify. Despite this obvious and memorable warning many household pets never seem to learn the “stay away” lesson, repeatedly finding skunks irresistible.
About the size of a house cat, skunks weigh between 3-14 pounds and grow to a length of 25-32 inches. For their relatively diminutive size, skunks possess an impressive defense system. Scent glands on each side of the anus produce a foul smelling fluid, potent enough to ward off almost any predatory attack. Direct contact with the fluid will cause severe skin irritation and temporary blindness.
Skunks are neither diurnal (day) nor strictly nocturnal (night) creatures but instead categorized as crepuscular or twilight creatures, active most during dusk and dawn. Skunks encountered during daylight should be avoided, since this uncharacteristic behavior is typical of skunks carrying rabies.
Omnivores, skunks eat a wildly variable diet of plants and animals, including insects, birds, frogs, fruits, grasses, buds, grains, nuts, and carrion. In residential areas, skunk’s burrowing and feeding habits frequently conflict with humans, making them wildly undesirable pests.
Breeding occurs in February through March with young born in April and June with litters averaging 6-7 young.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. Is it legal to keep a skunk as a pet in Maine?
2. How far can a skunk spray?
3. Is there a hunting season on skunks?
4. Do skunks hibernate?
5. If an animal is sprayed by a skunk what is the best way to get rid of the odor?
6. What is the best way to get rid of a skunk from a property?
7. What is the home rage of a skunk?
8. How long do skunks live?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. No, it is not legal to keep a skunk as a pet in Maine.
2. A skunk can spray up to 15 feet.
3. Yes, skunks can be hunted from October 15th to December 31st.
4. Skunks are not “true” hibernators but will den and go through long periods of inactivity during extremely cold weather.
5. Many highly effective commercially available products are available at pet stores. Home remedies include ingredients such as tomato juice, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.
6. The best way to get rid of a skunk from a property is to eliminate denning locations around houses and garages. If this is not a viable option, skunks maybe live trapped and relocated a minimum of 10 miles from the original location.
7. The home range of a skunk is 2 miles.
8. Skunks in the wild live about 3 years while in captivity they have live 10-15 years.
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