Striped Skunk

Mephitis mephitis

Animal Ambassadors

Salt & Pepper

Striped skunks are the most common skunk species in North America, found from southern Canada to northern Mexico. Although skunks used to be grouped in with the Mustelid family, they are now recognized as their own distinct family Mephitidae. They are best known for their primary defensive mechanism: their foul-smelling spray! They have two specialized glands which contain a total of around 30 mL of the caustic liquid. Additionally, the spray can sting the eyes and cause temporary blindness. Because of this, most mammalian predators will avoid hunting skunks unless they are desperate for a meal. Raptors like great horned owls, which lack a developed sense of smell, are much more common predators. Although skunks’ powerful odor is a great deterrent, it takes up to ten days to replenish their spray if they completely empty their glands! Because of this, skunks only spray as an absolute last defense; they give plenty of cues first, like stamping their feet, waving their tail, or even doing a handstand! If you see a skunk in the wild, just steer clear and give them their space. Historically, skunks were commonly hunted and bred for their fur. Now, they are fairly common in the exotic pet trade. Although very cute, we do not recommend keeping them as pets. These animals are highly omnivorous, meaning that they will eat just about anything. This can sometimes include carpet or furniture! Additionally, these animals are built to dig and frequently do severe damage to houses and yards. We get many calls each year from individuals wanting to rehome their skunks for a variety of reasons.

Highly omnivorous: invertebrates, small rodents, eggs, amphibians, reptiles, fish, fruit, vegetation
Throughout North America
2-7 years / 7-10 years
Mostly open areas, but also woods, deserts, plains, urban and suburban areas
Length / Wingspan:
1.5-3 ft
1.5-13 lbs