Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark
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A striped skunk photographed at The New Mexico Wildlife Center in Española
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Striped Skunk


About the Striped Skunk

Skunks are legendary for their powerful predator-deterrent—a hard-to-remove, horrible-smelling spray.

Skunk Spray

A skunk's spray is an oily liquid produced by glands under its large tail. To employ this scent bomb, a skunk turns around and blasts its foe with a foul mist that can travel as far as ten feet.

Skunk spray causes no real damage to its victims, but it sure makes them uncomfortable. It can linger for many days and defy attempts to remove it. As a defensive technique, the spray is very effective. Predators typically give skunks a wide berth unless little other food is available.

Behavior

Skunks usually nest in burrows constructed by other animals, but they also live in hollow logs or even abandoned buildings. In colder climates, some skunks may sleep in these nests for several weeks of the chilliest season. Each female gives birth to between two and ten young each year.

Skunks are opportunistic eaters with a varied diet. They are nocturnal foragers who eat fruit and plants, insects, larvae, worms, eggs, reptiles, small mammals, and even fish.