Spotted Skunks

Weight: 7 oz to 14 lbs (198 g to 6 kg) Mephitis mephitis.

Average length: It can be about 30 inches long, about the size of a common house cat. Head and body, 8 to 19 in (20 to 48 cm); tail, 5 to 15 in (13 to 38 cm.
40 to 80 cm.

Habitat: Open woodland and dense shrub, In North America, skunks are found everywhere. They tend to prefer night movements, but are not strictly nocturnal.

Life Span: 5-8 years.

Spotted SkunkSkunks are considered part of the Mustelidae family that also includes badgers and other tiny burrow mammals. These creatures are infamous for secreting a liquid with a very foul smell. This is because of the anal scent glands located on each on the side of their anus. The muscles located adjacent to the scent glands allow them to spray in correctly by as far as 10 feet. Skunks are at their best during twilight.

There are four species of skunks. First is the Conepatus consisting of Molina’s hog-nosed skunk which are also called Andes Skunk. They are generally spotted in South America. The Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunk also known as the Patagonian hog-nosed skunk are indigenous to the open grassy areas in the Patagonian regions of South America such as Argentina and Chile. The American hog-nosed skunk is the one found in Central and North America including Costa Rica. This is one og the largest known skunks anywhere in the world. Last of this genus is striped hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus semistriatus) which is from Central and South America and is highly nocturnal in nature. Second genus is the Mephitis which is composed of the Hooded Skunk found in South-western United Sates, Central America and Mexico region.

Spotted SkunkSkunks generally possess black and white fur but their appearance varies from species to species since some are more prominently brown and cream colored, though all species sport stripes right from birth. They also vary in sizes from about 40 to 94 cm and in weight from about 1.1 lbs to 18 lbs depending on its type. Skunks have a long body with short and strong muscled legs. They have front claws that are dexterously used for digging. They are omnivorous which means they consume both flora and fauna. Their diet primarily comprises insects, small rodents, reptiles, invertebrates, birds, salamanders, frogs and eggs. They also have a penchant for small fruits, leaves, fungi, roots, and other parts of a plant. They attack honeybees since their thick fur ensures they aren’t affected by bee stings.

The skunks use this foul smell very cleverly to keep away from possible attackers since the chemicals can cause irritation and even partial blindness. Spotted skunks are highly and communicative in their gestures and can make elaborate hisses, foot stamping sounds with all the tail upward pose drama before spraying the attacker. Owing to this, creatures like wolves, bears and even human beings rarely get into a confrontation with the skunk because their foul odor is very difficult to get rid of. Their only predators are animals with an underdeveloped sense of smell.

Spotted Skunks are also usually polygamous in nature, which means they will mate with more than one female. Female skunks give birth to four to seven creatures at a time.  At birth, skunks are almost blind, deaf and enclosed in a soft fur. They open their eyes only after three weeks. The male doesn’t play any role in raising its little one, however the mother can be excessively protective of the infant and will care for it till it is old enough to venture out on its own.

Keeping skunks as pets is legal in some parts of the United States and the entire United Kingdom. The striped skunk is the most preferred skunk species to be kept as pets. Pet owners usually get their glands removed to avoid the awful spraying. In the last few years however, removing the pet skunks glands has been made illegal due to which it is absolutely impractical to have them as pets.

The spotted skunks preferred prey is primarily small mammals such as rats and mice. Skunks are especially helpful to humans since they are adept at catching pesky rodents. Spotted skunks are commonly spotted in Central America and are not considered endangered even though they were once extensively hunted for the pet trade. Spotted skunks are plentiful, occupying most of their habitat in dense numbers.

For More Information

Spotted Skunk – Costa Rica Journeys article

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