Skunk is a mammal of the order of predators and the family Mephitidae. Skunk is associated with a fetid odor that the animal secretes with the help of special preanal glands when it feels threatened. Skunk is distinguished by a rather bright and at the same time strict black and white color. This contrasting color is a warning sign for many large predators.
Interesting fact: A skunk’s stinking jet can hit an enemy up to 6 meters (20 feet) away from the animal. The smell of such weapons is incredibly persistent, so removing it is not at all easy. Such weapons are restored after a few days, during which the skunk remains defenseless.
Appearance and features
In addition to the specific aroma and original colors, the skunk has a rather powerful, stocky figure, short legs, equipped with impressive claws, and a beautiful, rich, bushy, rather long tail. Outwardly, the skunk looks like a cross between a badger and a ferret. Skunks have poor eyesight, but this deficiency is more than compensated for by their excellent sense of smell and hearing.
There are four kinds of skunks:
stink badger (also known as false badgers).
Skunk species vary in size from about 15.6 to 37 in (40 to 94 cm) long and in weight from about 1.1 lb (0.50 kg) (spotted skunks) to 18 lb (8.2 kg) (hog-nosed skunks). In general, the appearance of the skunk is very attractive, some people even domesticate skunks after solving the problem with their smell.
Where does the skunk live?
Skunks live mainly in the plains. It is believed that his homeland is the United States and southern Canada. Skunk is not found in Alaska and Hawaii. The mammal is also common in countries such as Mexico, Nicaragua and El Salvador, Argentina, Guatemala and Costa Rica, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru and Belize, Chile.
Skunk lives in forests or meadows, near settlements. Shrubs, rocky slopes and edges of rivers are the favorite places of these animals. In winter, the animal hibernates. Before that, they prepare their home by collecting dry leaves and grass.
In Italy, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands and the USA, these animals are kept as pets. The law protects these mammals from unauthorized trade. Where permitted, skunk with scent glands removed can be purchased from animal shelters or fur farms. Skunks can be kept as pets in the UK, but the Animal Protection Act of 2006 prohibited the removal of their scent glands.
What does a skunk eat?
Skunks, without a doubt, can be called omnivores, their menu includes both animal food and a variety of vegetation. Do not forget that animals are predatory. Skunk does not know how to catch fast or large prey, for this he does not have the necessary abilities. Therefore, his diet includes small rodents, lizards, frogs. Sometimes he can attack helpless rabbits.
Animals will gladly dine on a variety of vegetables and fruits, grains, leaves, herbs and nuts. As mentioned, urban skunks eat their food waste in landfills and in garbage cans.
Interesting fact: Skunks have a sweet tooth, they just love honey, eating it right with honeycombs and bees.
Social structure and reproduction
Skunks become sexually mature at the age of one year, and their mating season starts in the first month of spring or already in February and lasts about two to three months. During the breeding season, males can be aggressive and engage in fights with competitors for the possession of the female. Skunks can be called polygamous; one male has several females for mating. The male takes part only in fertilization, he does not appear further in the life of his cubs. Tiny skunks are born blind and only after a week their eyes begin to open, at first they are completely helpless and completely dependent on their mother, who feeds them with milk. Then the babies begin to quickly grow and get stronger, and by the age of four months they already represent a serious “smelling” danger to others.
Interesting fact: For skunks, such a phenomenon is characteristic as embryonic diapause (delayed embryonic development). It is in this case that the pregnancy lasts two months, not one.
The mother feeds the cubs for about seven weeks. They begin to get used to self-feeding as early as two months. The first wintering takes place in the mother’s burrow, and the next year, young skunks will have to find their own shelter. In difficult wild conditions, skunks live only about 3 or 4 years, and in captivity they can live as much as 10. A lot of young animals die in the first year of life. There is evidence that only 10% are able to successfully overcome the first wintering.
The skunk has a formidable chemical weapon, but not everyone is scared, therefore, in natural conditions, he has enemies, albeit a little. Predators that can attack a skunk: foxes, coyotes, cougars, badgers, bears, American lynxes, birds of prey (eagle owl). Many predators, having experienced the stinking stream of skunks at least once, never approach this animal again, remembering it by its bright colors. It should be added that the birds are largely saved by a not too sensitive sense of smell, so they continue to attack skunks. A person who destroys animals because of their stench can also be ranked among the enemies of the skunk. Skunks often suffer from chicken coops raids. People kill animals because skunks often get rabies.
Population and status
Skunks have spread quite widely across America. However, people negatively affect the number of skunks. First, people deliberately kill skunks because of their increased stench and predisposition
to rabies. Second, people are pushing skunks out of their natural habitat by expanding cities. A huge number of animals are killed on highways.
Surprisingly, despite all the negative factors, there are still a lot of skunks, they are not threatened with extinction, and the animals do not need special protection measures, which is good news. Apparently, this is because these interesting animals are unpretentious in the choice of food and can settle in a wide variety of landscapes, including urban ones. Do not underestimate the power of
their chemical weapons, which often save the lives of many skunks from various predators.
Interesting facts about skunks
- Israeli secret services have developed a stinking means used to disperse the demonstrators, appropriately named “skunk”;
- The smelling liquid from the glands of skunks and smelly badgers is, oddly enough, used in the perfume industry;
- The first to tame skunks and keep them as pets were the American Indians;
- Skunks are beneficial to the ecosystem by killing some harmful insects and rodents.