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Skunk Evidence of Intrusion

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Depressions Under Structures and Woodpiles

If you think you may have skunks in your yard and gardens you may want to consider searching for their home. Look for smooth depressions under woodpiles or porches. These are normally fairly shallow with a depth of three (3) to four (4) inches at the most.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Feeding Holes

Skunks dig for their supper which can leave fairly tell tale evidence of intrusion. If you wake one morning to find several holes within a few yards of each other this could be a fair sign that a skunk has been feeding on your lawn insects. Look for holes that range from one (1) to three (3) inches in diameter with the same range of depth.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Birdfeeder Food Missing

If you fill your bird feeder at night so that you can awake to sweet melody of song birds singing happily in your yard only to find that the feeder has emptied before the sun comes up, this could mean that a skunk has decided to make your bird seed his dinner.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Scat

Because skunks do most of their foraging above ground looking for scat, droppings or excrement, is a good way to determine if you have skunks in your yard. Skunk scat will vary in size with the larger species, the Striped and Hog-nosed having droppings that are about one half inch in diameter and two (2) to four (4) inches long to the smaller sized droppings of the Spotted and Hooded skunks that will be about one quarter inch in diameter and one (1) to two (2) inches in length. When examining the scat it would not be unusual to find undigested particles of hair, seeds, and small insect skeletons and bone fragments from small mammals.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Tracks

Look for tracks of the skunk in soft dirt, mud and snow. These may be found close to feeding areas such as next to your raspberry canes. Skunk tracks look a lot like cat prints but have five (5) toes instead of four (4). Look for tracks that are staggered and almost on top of each other. Note the long claw marks on the image below-this is very distinctive to skunks when comparing to a cat pawprints.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Rolled Back Sod

If find that your sod has been carefully rolled back you could conclude that a skunk has been for a visit. They often roll back the sod to get to those juicy grubs underneath.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Musky Odor

Even if skunks do not spray in your yard, if they use your property as regular pathway or dinner stop you will begin to note a faint musky smell associated with the skunk.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Barking Dogs

Skunks are nocturnal animals and while they aren’t very vocal their presence may alert many animals include neighborhood dogs. If you are hearing barking dogs during the night it may indicate skunk presence in your area.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Torn Logs in the Woodpile

In their quest for juicy insects skunks will tear into partially rotted wood to get to some of the best beetles and borers. If you are noting tares in the logs of your woodpiles or in any logs or limbs laying on the ground this could be evidence of skunk intrusion on your land.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Disturbed Garbage

If you are noticing your trash cans have been raided during the night, it could mean that there are skunks intruding.

Skunk Evidence of Intrusion-Lower Ears of Corn Eaten

Damage to the lower ears of corn without the stalks being knocked down is a sign of skunks in your yard.

Skunk Interesting Facts

  • Skunks have been recently removed from the same classification as the weasel family.
  • Spotted skunks are a very rare site during the day opting to stay in their dens even during the night if the moon is bright.
  • While there are only four (4) species of skunks there are several subspecies that differ for the most part in appearance only.
  • Skunks will roll caterpillars on the ground to remove the hairs before eating them.
  • They will also roll beetles that emit a defensive scent, causing the beetle to deplete its scent before they eat it.
  • Western spotted skunks mate in the fall.
  • The Western spotted skunk delays implantation of the embryo.
  • Eastern spotted skunks and striped skunks mate in the spring.
  • In general, the species will have between five (5) to seven (7) babies.
  • The spray from a skunk will not cause permanent blindness because our eyes quickly tear up removing any residue from the spray substance
  • Skunks have a limited supply of defensive spray so they do not spray without provocation. A striped skunk can only spray five (5) to eight (8) times within a short period before running on empty. It takes close to a full week for their bodies to recuperate enough and have more spray available for defense.
  • Stripped skunks first try to scare a would-be threat away by stomping its feet, followed by charging with its tail raised in the direction of the threat. If all of those methods fail it will then resort to spraying. This is done by bending in the middle so that they are facing the same direction as their rear. They will arch their back and erect their tail and the spray will flow from two (2) glands on opposite sides of their interior anus.
  • The Spotted Skunk has a much more pungent spray than the other species of skunks, but according to experts are less likely to spray opting to run away more often than not. However, if they do decide to spray it can be quite a site! The spotted skunk will literal perform a handstand while spraying. The skunk will stand on its front feet with its back arched spraying forward!
  • Much like some the military’s most stealth weapons, or perhaps common place sci-fi theater weapon design, the individual sprays of the skunk will meet approximately 12 inches outside of the animal where they then join to become a fine mist of the most powerful deterrent known to the mammal world. The stream reaches and end point nearly 2-3 meters (6-9 feet) out.
  • The spray of the all skunks is musky in odor, amber in color and oily. It is its oily composition that makes the odor hard to get rid of, although it will go away.
  • It may take two (2) to four (4) months for the odor to disappear from objects.
  • There are many home remedies and store bought substances that help to remove the odor from pets and objects sooner than later including tomato juice, carbolic soap.

Skunk Diet

Striped Skunk’s diet, as well as all species of skunk, is varied. They are omnivores eating both plant and animal matter. As with most wild animals they are not too picky and will eat what’s abundant or nearby.

Skunk Diet-Food

Skunks will eat a great variety of foods. These can consist of various plant parts including leaves, shoots and buds, flowers and fruits. They partake in a plethora of grains and nuts, too.

On the heartier side of the skunk diet, skunks eat a wide variety of animal matter. The animal will consume small mammals including small mice, baby rats, and voles. Skunks will also eat small birds and bird eggs. To round off their diet skunks have even been known to feast on carrion, worms, small reptiles and fish, too! Yet, their favorite food is most definitely insects; especially grubs, beetles and grasshoppers.

Researchers have determined that insects make up approximately 70% of the skunk diet! They are not shy about getting to those insects either. They consider bee hives and ant colonies as dietary jackpots and will attack each at will eating the live insects as they exit their damaged homes.

Around the house skunks have been known to add garbage, pet food and birdseed to their diet. Not to mention your raspberries, corn and other vegetables from your garden!

Skunk Diet-Physical Attributes

All varieties of skunks have big feet; feet that are much bigger in proportion to the rest of their body. Each foot has very long claws which help the animal in digging in the dirt, perhaps in your yard and garden, to feast on the many grubs and other insects that make the soil their home.

Skunk Diet-Seasonal Variances

On the seasonal side the skunk diet varies only slightly and is based on availability. The quantities of food eaten do not vary much at all throughout the year; however, the types of food change slightly. The skunk diet will include many more insect buffets during the summer than any other season.

Skunk Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

Skunks are almost always unwelcomed guests and this not entirely due to their odor. In their search for food, especially their most favorite meal, insects, they have a nasty habit of digging holes in carefully tended lawns and gardens. Golf course owners get particularly upset when skunks have come through during the night foraging for grubs and have left their pristine courses dotted with mounds of dirt and torn sod that has been rolled back during their search.

Skunks can also be present a potential problem when they take up residence under porches and decks or in buildings. Anyone who has been in a structure that has had skunks living under it can tell you that the smell is always present, or worse, if they get frightened and spray while they are under a deck or inside a building the odor can remain for a long, long time.

The diet of the skunk will lead them into gardens as well where they will dine on your carefully tended vegetables and fruits.

Their affinity for birds has many people upset. They have caused significant losses of ground nesting birds and aren’t afraid to venture into chicken coops to prey on poultry and eggs.

The Skunk Diet can be beneficial, too. They do keep a check on many animals considered to be pests to homeowners include mice, rats, voles, etc.

Skunk Habitat

Skunk Habitat is fairly common among all species. In the wild they choose areas that are more open including clearings in forests, and prairies. They live in pastures and the open areas along forest edges. They are quite common in suburban areas where there are nearby streams or some sort of water source within two (2) miles.
Skunk Habitat-Range

Skunks are native to North America with the exception of the Asian Badger who was only recently added to the skunk family by scientists. The Striped Skunk’s habitat range is found fairly far north but does not extend as far as Alaska. Its southern range extends only slightly into Mexico. The Spotted Skunk is also found throughout the United States but is not found much further north than the United State’s northern border, but is found through Central America. The range of the other two (2) species is somewhat smaller and is illustrated in the table below based on sub-species.

Individually, the average home range of the skunk is one-half to two (2) miles but is often extended during breeding season when males may trek out as much as five (5) miles to find a mate.

Skunk Benefits & Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

Skunks have a few habits that may be detrimental to humans, but the most annoying habit may well be their pension for digging under porches and buildings. They seem to have a knack for finding openings in poured wall foundations and working from there. The fear is of course that they will spray under a building leaving a lasting, offensive scent.

On a serious note, skunks are the primary carriers of rabies in most parts of North America. Many experts recommend staying far away from overly aggressive skunks and even reporting such animals to your local animal control agency. This includes observing them roaming around during the daytime on a regular basis.

Skunks aren’t all bad, though. They eat many pests and help to control insect populations as well as rodents that can cause crop damage.

Skunk Behavior

Skunks are nocturnal, meaning they are active during the cover of darkness. None of the four (4) species hibernate; however, during the winter months, November through February, they enter a period of inactivity or low activity and do not normally leave their dens. Males may leave the winter dens in search of food during warmer periods of winter.

All skunks, no matter what species, are fairly quiet. They have good hearing, but as can be expected with most nocturnal animals their eyesight is fairly poor.

Mating season for skunks vary by species. Western spotted skunks mate in the fall whereas Eastern spotted skunks and striped skunks mate in the spring. Gestation is a bit different between the species as will with the western spotted skunks actually delay implantation of the embryo. Because of this each species gives birth in the spring. In general, the species will have between five (5) to seven (7) babies.

Perhaps the most famous skunk behavior is its main defense mechanism-scent spraying. This may be the most famous defense mechanism of any creature on earth! The way and frequency of the spray is different depending on what species of skunk you are dealing with.

Striped Skunks will only spray if they are in fear of their life; but they will spray and if you’ve been close by when they have you know how pungent it is. The spray is actually sprayed from glands in the anus of the animals.

Because of their spray mechanism skunks, no matter what the species, skunks are rarely preyed upon by mammals and may only be fearful of large birds including owls and hawks. Occasionally a really hungry coyote or fox, or large, wild cat may prey on the animals. They as with many other small mammals living near human habitation will fall prey to the automobile, too.

Skunk Physical Appearance

Skunks physical appearance varies between each species and subspecies. For the most part however, all skunks have short, stocky legs. Their feet are much larger in proportion to their legs and have long claws.

With fur as black as night, and white lateral stripes running the length of its back, striped skunks have perhaps the most famous coloring of all of the species. These skunks are often likened to the size of a domestic house cats. They are on average 29 inches long and weigh about eight (8) to ten (10) pounds.

Spotted skunks are noticeably smaller than the striped skunks. They average 21 inches long and weigh only two (2) to 2 ½ pounds. As their name indicates they are more spotted than stripped. Spotted skunks will have white spots and some white striping on top of a base of jet black fur.

Hooded skunks have a distinctive fur “hood” on their necks which is essentially longer fur that appears denser and looks similar to a hood on a jacket. In size they are nearly identical to the striped skunk, but have a very long tail that is nearly the same length as their body. Their back fur color can range from practically all white to all black with two (2) white side stripes.

The Hog-nosed skunk is normally identified by a long snout that is conspicuously missing hair for the last inch or so before the eyes. This is a medium sized skunk weighing in at four (4) pounds and reaching up to 26 inches in length. This species is much different in coloring than the others with a white back and tale and black belly.

Skunk Natural History

Skunks are native the Americas with one exception, the Asian Stink Badger. Scientists have only recently added this mammal to the skunk genus. Skunks, themselves, have previously been considered members of the weasel family and only recently have researchers determined that they should be considered as their own distinct family.

Skunks may live up to three (3) years in the wild but in captivity they have been known to live as long as fifteen (15) years. Life out in the wild is hard and experts estimate that nearly 90% of the skunks born in the wild do not survive the first year.

Striped Skunk

Scientific Name: Mephitis mephitis
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mephitidae
Genus: Mephitis
Species: mephitis

Skunk Introduction

Skunks in your yard and gardens could be one (1) of four (4) species that live in the United States. These include the Striped, Spotted, Hooded and Hog-nosed Skunks with several sub-species in each group. By far, the most common in the United States are the Stripped and Spotted Skunks.