Where do skunks live 1


Skunks (Mephitidae) count within the class of mammals (Mammalia) to the order of the predators (Carnivora). In the family there are 12 recent species in 4 genera. The English name of the animals is identical to the German synonym. Originally, Skunks were considered a subfamily of the martens (Mustelidae) guided.


Appearance and dimensions

Skunks reach a body length of 11.5 to 51 centimeters, a tail length of 7 to 43.5 centimeters and a weight of 700 grams to 4.5 kilograms. The physique of the Skunks resembles a mix of badgers and weasels. The long fur is usually drawn in black and white, which can be spots or stripes depending on the species. The conspicuous color of the fur does not serve as a camouflage, but as a warning to potential attackers or predators. This is not without reason, because skunks are one of the few mammals that use chemicals to defend themselves. The optical signals caused by the color of the fur are also known as aposematic signals. When a Skunk feels threatened, it lifts its tail, stamps its paws and makes mock attacks. If this does not work, he sprays an attack with a foul-smelling substance that contains methane compounds in addition to butane and sulfur. Skunks hit targets that are up to 2 meters away. The smell can be smelled up to a distance of around one kilometer. On contact with the eyes, severe irritation occurs, which can be accompanied by temporary blindness. The two glands through which the secretion is released are located in the anal area on each side of the anus. Through muscle contraction, the secretion is reliably released through fine openings. Secretion is usually replaced within 48 hours. The secretion is sufficient for most species for up to 6 "shots". The animals' strong set of teeth consists of 34 teeth, the dental formula is i3 / 3, c1 / 1, p3 / 3, m1 / 2. Skunks have 53 vertebrae, which are divided into 7 cervical vertebrae (Cervical vertebrae), 14 thoracic vertebrae (Thoracic vertebrae), 7 lumbar vertebrae (Lumbar vertebrae), 2 sacral vertebrae (Sacral vertebrae) and 23 coccyx vertebrae (Coccygeal vertebrae) structure.

Way of life

Skunks are solitary for most of the year and only meet during the mating season. In the northern regions, skunks hibernate for several months (in Alberta Canada between 120 to 150 days), during which they gather in groups of up to 20 animals. It is usually a male and several females. The hibernation ends in spring, usually in March or early April. This is also when the mating season begins. Skunks are territorial, males inhabit territories up to 20 km² in size. The territories of the females are significantly smaller with up to 4 km². The territories of the males and females overlap at the outer borders. The territories of several males also usually overlap. The front paws have strong and long claws. The claws are mainly used for digging earthworks and foraging. Earthworks are often dug themselves, but there are also structures made by other animals such as ground squirrel (Spermophilus) and animals of similar size. Some species, especially representatives of the Spotted Skunk, occasionally inhabit crevices and similarly protected places in addition to earthworks. Spotted skunks are also excellent climbers and can therefore also be found in trees.

Comparison of sizes at the generic level

Dimensions and weights according to Nowak, 1999. <1>

Common name German Common name English Scientific name Body length in cm Tail length in cm Weight in grams
- - Mephitis 28 - 38 18,5 - 43,5 700 - 2.500
Spot Skunks Spotted skunks Spilogals 11,5 - 34,5 7 - 22 200 - 1.000
Piglet nose scunks Hog-nosed skunks Conepatus 30 - 49 16 - 41 2.300 - 4.500
Smelly badgers Stink badgers Mydaus 37,5 - 51 5 - 7,5 1.400 - 3.600


Skunks are common in the New World from southern Canada, across Central America to southern South America and Indonesia. Smelly badgers can be found in Indonesia and the Philippines. The Palawan stink badger (Mydaus marchei) is endemic to the Philippine islands of Busuanga, Calauit, and Palawan. The Sunda Stink Badger (Mydaus javanensis) is much more widespread. It occurs on Java, Sumatra, Borneo and the Natuna Islands. The strip skunk is the most widespread. It colonizes large parts of North America and can be found in the south to northern Mexico. The related type of strip skunk, the hooded skunk, on the other hand, is only at home in the southwest of the USA. Spotted skunks are widespread, depending on the species, from the southeast and west of the United States to southwest Mexico. Piglet kunks come from the southern US states, across Central America to the south of South America. Depending on the species, numerous habitats are populated. The strip skunk can also be found near people on the outskirts of the city. Other species such as the Haubenskunk occur only in rocky canyons and arid desert areas. Stink badgers mainly inhabit montane forests and mountain forests.



The potential carnivores include, depending on the Skunkart and distribution area, the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), but also predatory mammals (Mammalia) such as the puma (Puma concolor), the coyote (Canis latrans), the silver badger (Taxidea taxus), the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and the bobcat (Lynx rufus). Smaller skunks have it too Domestic cat (Felis catus) and domestic dogs. In Southeast Asia, musangs (Paradox), Bengal cats (Prionailurus bengalensis) and Tangalungas (Vivetta tangalunga) from the genus of the Asiatic civet cats (Viverra) after the stink badgers. Owls and birds of prey seem to have little effect on the foul-smelling secretion. The mammals among the predators usually remember the lesson and typically don't attack a skunk a second time.


Skunks are plagued by numerous ecto- and endoparasites. The following parasites should be mentioned in particular:

  • Roundworms (Nematoda)
    • Physaloptera maxillaris, Scriabingylus chitwoodorum
  • Tapeworms (Cestoda)
  • Fleas (Siphonaptera)
    • Oropsylla montanus, Hoplopsyllus anomalus, Foxella ignota
  • Jaw lice (Mallophaga)
    • Neotrichodectes mephitidis
  • Ticks (Ixodida)
    • Demacentor variabilis, Amblyomma americanum

Other parasites also include bot flies (Oestridae) and similar parasitic animals.


Skunks are essentially omnivores. Depending on the species, rodents (Rodentia) and Insects (Insecta) eaten. Depending on the region and availability, the menu also includes tailed amphibians (Caudata), Frog (Anura), Birds (Aves), Bird eggs. little snakes (Serpentes) and other small reptiles (Reptilia) as well as their eggs. In the vicinity of humans, the animals also rummage through household rubbish for food and carrion is not spurned. Prey animals are both actively hunted or dug out of the ground. The most important senses in foraging for food are hearing and the olfactory sense. However, Skunks can only see clearly up to a distance of about 3 meters. In late summer and autumn, skunks build a thick layer of fat in the northern latitudes. The animals feed on their fat reserves during hibernation.


Skunks reach sexual maturity towards the end of the first year of life, usually at the age of 10 to 11 months. Depending on the area of ​​distribution, the skunks start to reproduce in late autumn or early winter, in northern regions usually in spring. If the mating season begins in autumn or winter, a dormancy period of several months sets in. In these cases, the total wearing time extends over 230 to 250 days, the actual embryonic phase then extends over 28 to 31 days. In the regions where there is no delayed implantation, the gestation period extends over 42 to 77 days, depending on the species. Depending on the species and climatic conditions, there are 1 to 2 litters in one season.

The litter size is between 1 and 10 young animals. The offspring are extremely helpless and naked and blind when they are born. The birth weight, depending on litter size and species, is an average of 12 to 35 grams.The eyes open between 22 and 32 days of age, and the adult color of the fur begins after an average of 21 days of age. For suckling the offspring, a female has 3 to 5 pairs of teats. At the age of 54 to 70 days, weaning takes place and the family group dissolves. The life expectancy of the Skunks in freedom is barely 3 years. Depending on the species, a life expectancy of 8 to 12 years was achieved in captivity.

Ecology, hazard and protection

In North America, skunks are considered to be the spreaders of rabies. Rabies causes acute and life-threatening encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in both animals and humans. So far, little is known about the epidemiology of the special variant of scuncle rabies. Skunks either pass the rabies virus on through their saliva or they are infected through bites. Among the Skunks themselves, the transmission of rabies is likely to be favored by socializing in the winter quarters. Since skunks are not infrequently found in the vicinity of humans, especially on agricultural land and in stable buildings, the risk of transmission to pets increases.

Except for the Palawan stink badger (Mydaus marchei) all other species are not endangered today. The Palawan stink badger is now endangered and is listed as such on the IUCN Red List (VU, Vulnerable). The main cause is to be found in the destruction of natural habitats.

Systematics of the Skunks

Systematics according to Wozencraft in Wilson & Reeder, 2005. <2>

Family: Skunks (Mephitidae)

Genus: Mephitis
Type: Streifenskunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Type: Haubenskunk (Mephitis macroura)
Genus: Fleckenskunks (Spilogals)
Type: Eastern Patchwork Skunk (Spilogale putorius)
Type: Western Patchwork Skunk (Spilogale gracilis)
Type: Dwarf Spotted Skunk (Spilogale pygmaea)
Genus: Piglet nose skunks (Conepatus)
Type: Chilean Skunk (Conepatus chinga)
Type: Patagonian Skunk (Conepatus humboldtii)
Type: Eastern Piglet Kunk (Conepatus leuconotus)
Type: Western piglet kunk (Conepatus mesoleucus)
Type: Amazon Skunk (Conepatus semistriatus)
Genus: stink badger (Mydaus)
Type: Sunda Stink Badger (Mydaus javanensis)
Species: Palawan stink badger (Mydaus marchei)


Literature and sources

  • Mephitis
  • Spilogals
  • Mydaus
  • Generally
    • [1] Ronald M. Nowak: Walker's Mammals of the World: v. 1 & 2. B&T, edition 6, 1999, (engl.) ISBN 0801857899
    • [2] Don E. Wilson & DeeAnn M. Reeder: Mammal Species of the World, a Taxonomic & Geographic Reference. J. Hopkins Uni. Press, 3rd ed., 2005 ISBN 0801882214
    • David Macdonald: The great encyclopedia of mammals. Ullmann / tandem ISBN 3833110066
    • Hans Petzsch: Urania Animal Kingdom, 7 Vols., Mammals. Urania, Stuttgart (1992) ISBN 3332004999
    • Mammals. 700 species in their habitats. Dorling Kindersley, 2004. ISBN 383100580X

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