Striped Skunk

Mephitidae (skunks) in the order Carnivora

A cat-sized mammal with a prominent long-haired tail. The fur is black, usually with a white stripe running down the head and dividing to become two stripes on each side of the body. Often smelled before they are seen, skunks produce an obnoxious scent upon provocation. This disagreeable musk is secreted by glands at the base of the tail and can be aimed and sprayed at will. Prior to spraying, skunks usually warn intruders by stamping their feet and holding the tail high in the air.

Total length: 20–30 inches; tail length: 7–15 inches; weight: 2½–11½ pounds.
Habitat and conservation: 
Striped skunks use a variety of habitats but prefer forest borders, brushy field corners, fencerows and open grassy fields broken by wooded ravines and rocky outcrops, where permanent water is nearby. The den of a skunk is usually in the ground but occasionally is located in a stump, refuse dump, cave, rock pile, crevice in a cliff, farm building, wood pile or haystack. To deter unwanted skunks, make yards and outbuildings less accessible and attractive to them.
Striped skunks forage most of the night, eating plant and animal foods. In spring and summer, insects are their preferred food, including bees, wasps, hives, larvae and honey. Skunks also consume many mice and rats, plus moles, shrews, ground squirrels, young rabbits and chipmunks. Larger mammals are usually eaten as carrion; smaller ones are caught by the skunk. Birds and their eggs are rarely eaten.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide, but least numerous in the Mississippi Lowland where there is little high land for den sites.
Common, despite a long-term overall decline.
Life cycle: 
Breeding starts in February. Females more than 1 year old mate at this time while younger females mate about a month later. The single litter of 4–6 young is born from early May to early June. At birth, young skunks are almost naked, but they possess the beginning of the adult's characteristic black and white markings. As it gets colder in late autumn, more time is spent in dens. When it’s near freezing, skunks become drowsy and sleep intermittently, but they do not truly hibernate.
Human connections: 
The fur is thick and glossy; the blackest pelts are the most valuable. Skunk meat untainted with musk is good eating. Skunks are good mousers and help control insects; thus they are an asset around farms. They are interesting and valuable members of a farm wildlife community.
Ecosystem connections: 
Skunks consume smaller animals and insects, helping to control their populations; as scavengers, skunks help clean up the woods. Despite the foul-smelling spray, some animals, such as great horned owls, prey on skunks.