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Types of Skunks You May See on Next Camping Trip

Skunks are mammals known for their ability to secrete a strong-smelling fluid from their glands to repel predators. Skunks have been introduced into the habitats of North America and because of their power, they have become one of its most successful species.

They live in all parts of North America, including areas as far north as Alaska, but they usually avoid deserts and other regions that do not offer enough variety in local foods.

There are several types such as:

  1. Striped skunks

  2. American Hog-Nosed Skunk

  3. Molina’s Hog-Nosed Skunk

  4. Striped Hog-Nosed Skunk

  5. Humboldt’s Hog-Nosed Skunk

  6. Spotted Skunk Types

  7. Eastern Spotted Skunk

  8. Western Spotted Skunk

  9. Southern Spotted Skunk

  10. Pygmy Spotted Skunk

  11. Hooded Skunks

In temperate climates, skunk mating season takes place during early spring. Males leave the females after mating and return later only to eat the young. Females may mate with more than one male before giving birth about 60 days later.

Skunk young, called kits, are born blind and naked and remain so for several days. As soon as they can see and walk, the kits begin to explore their surroundings.

Skunks eat almost anything; however, insects make up a large part of their diet. They also eat small rodents such as mice and rabbits as well as birds, eggs, fruit and other vegetation like beets or dandelions. The skunks sometimes wander into cities looking for food in garbage cans or other places where they can find human leftovers.

There is nothing unusual about seeing them near buildings occupied by humans at night or early in the morning. Although many think that skunks fear people because they rarely see one during the day (the skunk will usually stay hidden to protect itself against predators), the truth is that they are nocturnal animals, so seeing one during the day does not mean it’s sick or hurt.

Skunks make their dens anywhere; if suitable holes or tunnels aren’t available, they may dig burrows for themselves. They search out deserted fox or ground squirrel burrows, hollow logs and trees. Like other mammals, skunks can be found at denning sites where many dead ones are often found together after having died in a disease epidemic.

Skunks can also be found inhabiting sewers and basements of buildings, depending on the availability of food nearby. The adoption of sewer water as shelter has earned them common name: polecat; however, unlike European polecats , they rarely cause damage to the sewer system.

Skunks are omnivores and eat just about anything including insects, larvae, worms, mice, birds and their eggs, snakes and lizards. Skunks also occasionally eat plant matter such as roots and berries. They do not need fresh water because they get enough fluids from the food they eat.

Although skunks avoid areas where there is very little vegetation or prey, some urban skunks have discovered that garages and unkempt lots offer a variety of tasty garden vegetables to supplement their usual diet of birdseed and grubs in backyards. They may even raid garbage cans for food scraps before returning home at dawn small openings under garage doors or beneath unfastened cellar doors often allow skunks access to such areas.

Skunks are found in all parts of North America except for Panama, Hawaii, and most desert regions. They can be found as far north as Alaska but prefer the milder climates further south. As this map shows they are absent from much of Canada and much of the western U.S., but there is a healthy population in Florida.

Many people think that skunks are nocturnal animals because they rarely see them during the day (they will usually stay hidden to protect themselves against predators), however, the truth is that they are mostly active at night so seeing one during the day does not mean it’s sick or hurt. Skunks may sometimes come out during the day in springtime when they are looking for a mate or early in the fall when they are looking for food.

Skunks usually avoid deserts and other regions that do not offer enough variety in local foods, but some skunks wander into cities searching for food in garbage cans or other places where they can find human leftovers. For this reason, there is nothing unusual about seeing them near buildings occupied by humans at night or early in the morning.

Although many think that skunks fear people because they rarely see one during the day (the skunk will usually stay hidden to protect itself against predators), the truth is that they are nocturnal animals, so seeing one during the day does not mean it’s sick or hurt. Skunks make their dens anywhere; if suitable holes or tunnels aren’t available, they may dig burrows for themselves. They search out deserted fox or ground squirrel burrows, hollow logs and trees.

Like other mammals, skunks can be found at denning sites where many dead ones are often found together after having died in a disease epidemic. Skunks can also be found inhabiting sewers and basements of buildings, depending on the availability of food nearby. The adoption of sewer water as shelter has earned them common name: polecat; however, unlike European polecats , they rarely cause damage to the sewer system.

Scent glands

On the body of a skunk can emit a repellent fluid that is accurately aimed with its tail straight up. The odor of this secretion has been described as an ill-smelling mess similar to rotten garbage and it is strong enough to ward off bears and other predators. However, like certain species of mongoose , striped skunks will stand their ground and defend themselves if threatened, and they may even make aggressive moves towards their enemies.

Skunks are not territorial; males have large home ranges (about 2,200 acres) that overlap those of several females (which average about 1,700 acres each).

Skunks usually avoid deserts and other regions that do not offer enough variety in local foods, but some skunks wander into cities searching for food in garbage cans or other places where they can find human leftovers. For this reason, there is nothing unusual about seeing them near buildings occupied by humans at night or early in the morning.

Like other mammals, skunks can be found at denning sites where many dead ones are often found together after having died in a disease epidemic. Skunks can also be found inhabiting sewers and basements of buildings, depending on the availability of food nearby. The adoption of sewer water as shelter has earned them common name: polecat; however, unlike European polecats , they rarely cause damage to the sewer system.

Striped skunks were once considered to belong to one species, with different varieties in different regions; however, recent DNA analysis has shown that there are in fact three separate species of striped skunks: Eastern , Hooded , and Western (formerly called Texas ) Striped Skunk. Spotted skunks, on the other hand, remain a single species despite their wide range.

Importance to man-

Skunks were once valued as a means of pest control by farmers and trappers. While they may kill small rodents, such as mice and rats, they often license out to larger animals such as groundhogs or rabbits if their preferred foods are not available. Farmers often employ them along field margins to control pests in the grasses there. However, because of their indiscriminate eating habits, skunks can also be considered pests themselves.

Skunk trapping has become an annual spring tradition throughout much of North America. Ethical trappers set out to capture nuisance animals alive with the intent of releasing them into more suitable habitat far from human habitations. One popular destination for many released skunks is the uninhabited wilderness on the western side of Isle Royale in Lake Superior. The practice of live trapping has since fallen out of favor due to the dangers of rabies, distemper and other diseases associated with skunk populations (see next section).

Typically, skunks are seen as nuisances by homeowners who find their dens under structures or decks. They become active at night when they venture near homes looking for insects like ants, crickets, snails and earthworms. Other favorite foods include moles, rabbits, squirrels ( Erethizon dorsatum ) and baby birds that fall from their nests. As omnivores , they also eat fruits such as apples that have fallen from trees on private property or on public lands .

Skunks can carry rabies which can be a risk to domestic animals as well as humans. The most common carrier of rabies in skunks is the Eastern , or striped, skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

Skunk Characteristics-

-Possess anal scent glands that produce a pungent odor used for defense

-Have zygodactyl feet which give it great climbing and shuffling ability

-Fur color changes with age and season; predominantly white at early age darkening with maturity and brown during winter; tail becomes darker with maturity

-Can expel musk from glands near tail more than 10′ away; musk stinks like decomposing road!

American Badger (Taxidea taxus)

The American Badger is indigenous to North America and has an oblong head, small eyes , long claws on the forefeet. It lives in burrows which it can dig out at a rate of 18″ per minute . When excited or angry , the badger emits a growl that’s similar to that of a dog’s bark . American badgers are solitary creatures with nocturnal habits. They are predaceous , hunting their prey by running it down and seizing it with both forepaws . Prey consists mainly of groundhogs but also includes rabbits, marmots, pikas, mice, prairie dogs, skunks and snakes

Habitat- The American badgers habitat is the prairies and plains of western North America.

Ecological niche- American badgers help control populations of small mammals that may cause agricultural problems, such as groundhogs and prairie dogs

Paleontology and classification-

The American Badger is the only species in the taxonomic family Mustelidae that lives in North America . It’s closest relatives are Asian badgers that include other species such as the European badger and Japanese badger. The American Badger belongs to a group of animals called musteloidea, meaning having molars with V-shaped cusps; another member of this family is skunks (Mephitinae)

Origin and fossil history- The American Badgers direct ancestors evolved during the early Pliocene Epoch 2 million years ago. At this time, most of North America was covered by tundra , coniferous forests, steppes , and grasslands . There were no permanent ice sheets and temperatures were much warmer than today

The American Badger’s closest living relative is the Asian Badger which likely made its way across the Bering land bridge into North America at least 400,000 years ago. Remains of badgers have been found in western Nebraska that are up to 2 million years old!

Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius)

Skunks are mammals known for their ability to secrete a liquid with a strong, foul odor from their anal glands . They are members of the family Mephitidae in the order Carnivora. Other animals with this name include Australian skunks , New World skunks , and polecats , all of which belong to different taxonomic families.

Spotted skunks are one of the most specialized mammals in North America, and they live throughout much of Central and South America. Skunks belong to a group of animals called mustelidae which also includes weasels , ferrets , minks , otters and badgers .