are moderately small mammals with black-and-white
fur belonging to the family Mephitidae and
the order Carnivora. There are 11 species
of skunks, which are divided into four genera:
Mephitis (hooded and striped skunks, two species),
Spilogale (spotted skunks, two species), Mydaus
(stink badgers, two species), and Conepatus
(hog-nosed skunks, five species).
species vary in size from about 15.6 in. (40
cm) to 27.3 in. (70 cm) and in weight from
about 1.1 lbs. (0.5 kg) (the spotted skunks)
to 9.92 lbs. (4.5 kg) (the hog-nosed skunks)
They have a moderately elongated body with
reasonably short, well-muscled legs, and long
front claws for digging. Although the most
common fur color is black and white, some
skunks are brown or gray, and a few are cream-colored.
All skunks are striped, however, even from
birth. They may have a single thick stripe
across back and tail, two thinner stripes,
or a series of white spots and broken stripes
(in the case of the spotted skunk). Some also
have stripes on their legs.
are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal
material but mostly meat. They eat invertebrates
(insects and their larvae, found by digging,
and earthworms) as well as small vertebrates
(rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes,
birds and eggs).
are solitary animals when not breeding, but
may gather together to keep warm in communal
dens in the coldest part of their range. During
the day they shelter in burrows that they
dig with their powerful front claws, or in
other man-made or natural hollows as the opportunity
arises. Both sexes occupy overlapping home
ranges through the greater part of the year;
typically 2 to 4 km for females, up to 20
km for males.
are nocturnal. They are best-known for their
ability to spray a foul-smelling and sticky
fluid as a defense against predators; this
secretion comes from the anal scent glands.
inhabit Canada (SW Northwest Territories to
Hudson Bay and S Quebec), Mexico (N Tamaulipas,
N Durango, and N Baja California), USA.