Western Spotted Skunk

Western Spotted Skunk

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Spilogale gracilis
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
10 yrs
WEIGHT
227-734 g
LENGTH
35-45 cm

Western spotted skunks are small mammals found in North America. Adults are boldly striped black and creamy white in color; they have three longitudinal stripes on each side of the front part of the body, and three vertical stripes on the hind-parts. In special cases, the normally black areas of the fur can appear in shades of red or brown, and areas of the skunk that traditionally appear white may appear in shades of gray or yellow. The face is marked with a white spot between the eyes, and a white patch below each ear. The animal has a conspicuously large, long-haired tail. The hair on the tail is mostly black, but is white at the tip, and sometimes also on the upper surface. The claws on the fore-feet are longer, and more curved than those on the hind feet.

No

Nocturnal

Om

Omnivore

Ca

Carnivore

Te

Terrestrial

Al

Altricial

Bu

Burrowing

Vi

Viviparous

Ge

Generally solitary

So

Solitary

No

Not a migrant

Hi

Hibernating

W

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Continents
Biogeographical realms

Western spotted skunks are found throughout the western United States, northern Mexico, and southwestern British Columbia. They live in mixed woodlands, open grasslands, farmlands, near streams, human buildings, and other disturbed areas. Their preferred habitats differ greatly depending on what resources are available in the immediate area. In areas such as Idaho and Washington, they prefer riparian areas that have brush thickets in which to hide and forage. In contrast, Western spotted skunks that live in areas such as eastern Oregon or northern Mexico can often be found near cliffs and canyons.

Western Spotted Skunk habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Western spotted skunks are nocturnal creatures. They spend the day in dens and are usually solitary, although sometimes two or three females will share a single den. When the night comes, these animals come out to feed; before winter, they will attempt to build reserves of fat. Western spotted skunks do not hibernate but may sleep for several weeks during the winter. During this time, females may den in groups that have been observed as large as 20. Males remain solitary during the winter. Like all skunks, these animals have two scent glands that spray a very foul-smelling musk. When threatened, Western spotted skunks will stamp their fore-feet before raising their hind parts in the air and showing their conspicuous warning coloration. While they can spray by standing on their forelegs and raising their hind legs and tail in the air, they more commonly do so with all four feet on the ground; they bend their body around so that both their head and their tail face the attacker.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Western spotted skunks are omnivores. They feed on insects, small vertebrates, such as mice and lizards, and berries. They have even been reported to consume scorpions in the southwest.

Mating Habits

REPRODUCTION SEASON
September
PREGNANCY DURATION
230-250 days
BABY CARRYING
2-5 kits
INDEPENDENT AGE
8 weeks
FEMALE NAME
sow
MALE NAME
boar
BABY NAME
kit

Little is known about the mating system in Western spotted skunks; however, skunks are generally polygynous and one male mates with several females. These spotted skunks usually breed in September. The female gives birth to 2-5 young after the gestation period that lasts around 230 to 250 days. At birth, the kits are blind and almost hairless, weighing around 11 g (0.39 oz). At the age of 8 weeks, the young are weaned and will reach reproductive maturity when they are 4 to 5 months old.

Population

Population threats

Western spotted skunks are widespread and not considered endangered. However, they do suffer from the use of pesticides and humans activity, especially automobile roadkills. These animals are also often shot, trapped, and poisoned during predator control.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Western spotted skunk total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Western spotted skunks feed on a large number of insects and small mammals thus controlling their populations. Spotted skunks, in turn, serve as a prey item for such predators as great horned owls, bobcats and domestic dogs.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Western spotted skunks can swim but will do that only when their life is in danger.
  • Spotted skunks have very sharp claws that allow them to climb trees and dig to get food.
  • The dens of Western spotted skunks are holes in the ground which they dig themselves and line them with leaves and rasses. Rarely but these animals may also settle in a hollow tree.
  • Skunks are increasingly kept as house pets and can be trained to use a litter box much like a house cat.
  • Western spotted skunks can cause problems in rural areas, as they will make dens on private property and in the attics of homes. They also often steal eggs from farmers.
  • The Western spotted skunk is one of many species that can adapt within the expansion of human civilization and remain neither endangered nor threatened.

References

1. Western Spotted Skunk on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_spotted_skunk
2. Western Spotted Skunk on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/136797/45221721
3. Western Spotted Skunk Illustration - https://creazilla.com/nodes/18543-western-spotted-skunk-clipart

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