The Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is a skunk of the genus Mephitis that occurs across much of North America. These animals possess highly developed musk-filled scent glands to ward off predators. They have a long history of association with humans, having been trapped and captively bred for their fur and kept as pets. The striped skunk is one of the most recognizable of North America's animals and is a popular figure in cartoons and children's books.
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight (that is, the periods of dawn and dusk). This is distinguished from diurnal...
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
An omnivore is an animal that has the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Obtaining energy and nutrients from plant and ani...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
A burrow is a hole or tunnel excavated into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct ...
Predators are animals that kill and eat other organisms, their prey. Predators may actively search for or pursue prey or wait for it, often conceal...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
BlBlack And White Animals
The Striped skunk is a stoutly-built, short-limbed animal with a small, conical head and a long, heavily furred tail. The feet are plantigrade with bare soles and are not as broad or flat as those of hog-nosed skunks. The forefeet are armed with five long, curved claws adapted for digging, while those on the hind feet are shorter and straighter. The color patterns of the fur vary greatly but generally consist of a black base with a white stripe extending from the head which divides along the shoulders, continuing along the flanks to the rump and tail. Some specimens have a white patch on the chest, while others bear white stripes on the outer surface of the front limbs. Brown or cream-colored mutations occasionally occur. The Striped skunk possesses two highly developed scent glands, one on each side of the anus, containing about 15 milliliters of musk each, which provides a chemical defense against predation. This oily, yellow-colored musk consists of a mixture of powerfully odorous thiols (sulfur analogs of alcohols, in older sources called "mercaptans"), which can be sprayed at a distance of several meters. If sprayed on the eyes, this compound can cause a temporary burning sensation.
Striped skunks are natives of North America and occur from northern Mexico to southern Canada. They prefer open areas with a variety of habitats and inhabit particularly mixed woodlands, brushy corners, and open fields interspersed with wooded ravines and rocky outcrops. Some populations, particularly in northwestern Illinois, prefer cultivated areas over uncultivated ones.
Skunks are nocturnal solitary animals and forage and hunt in the evening. During the day, they nest in the abandoned dens that other animals have lived in, in brush piles or hollowed logs, or underneath buildings. When it is colder, they prefer to remain in underground dens. During winter for extended periods, they are inactive but they do not truly hibernate. Docile in nature, they are famous for their defense system of a bad-smelling spray that comes from two glands near the base of their tail. This oily musk, which is expelled through the anus, may cause temporary blindness or pain if sprayed in the potential attacker’s eyes. Spraying typically takes place after a warning display, where the skunk stomps its feet and arches its back, at the same time raising its tail. Although these animals are usually silent, they can make a wide range of sounds, including hissing, screeching, churring, growling, twittering, and cooing sounds during social interactions or when alarmed.
Striped skunks are omnivores and eat both plants and meat. Their diet includes insects, fish, crustaceans, small mammals, fruits, nuts, grasses leaves, and carrion (dead animals).
Striped skunks are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. After mating, the female no longer associates with the male and becomes aggressive towards him through vocalizing, stamping her feet, and sometimes fighting. The breeding season is from February to April, and females typically give birth once a year. A female will sometimes breed for a second time in May, later in the spring, if she has lost her first litter, or she experienced a pseudopregnancy. Gestation is for around 59 to 77 days, starting with delayed implantation which can be as long as 19 days. Litters number 2 to 10 kits. Newborns are helpless and rely completely on their mother. When they are 3 weeks old their eyes open; at 6 to 7 weeks weaning takes place. Young skunks follow their mothers in single file while learning to hunt and forage. Striped skunks reach reproductive maturity when they are 10 months old.
The Striped skunk is threatened by predation, disease, environmental conditions (such as a severe winter or a drought), chemicals, human activities, diseases like rabies, and the associated control programs. Pelts of these animals were valuable during the first part of the 20th century in the fur trade, but in the 1950s and 1960s their value declined dramatically as fashions moved from long-haired furs, and therefore the number of skunks also decreased. However, these animals may still be harvested in most parts of Canada and the United States. In some states, like Florida, skunks may be killed only during a season, but harvests year-round are allowed in most states.
According to IUCN, the Striped skunk is common and widely distributed throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today remain stable.
Due to their diet, Striped skunks may affect insect populations in their range.