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Basic Skunk Information

Considering a skunk as a pet? Some of the skunk's personality traits can make them a challenge to live with - they are active and curious, and will get into everything. They are also prone to stealing items to make their beds softer. They can be stubborn and headstrong. Fortunately they are also friendly, loving and very entertaining and playful.

Skunks are members of the weasel family (Mustelidae). There are four species of skunk in North America: striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), hooded skunks (M. macroura), spotted skunks (Spilogale putorius), and scarce hognosed skunks (Conepatus mesoleucus).

Skunks are generally nocturnal and begin foraging at sunset. Skunks are omnivorous and help keep the rodent population in check. They often travel five to ten miles within their territory at night looking for field mice and other small rodents as well as lizards, frogs, birds, eggs, garbage, acorns, and fallen fruit. Photo by Hal S. Korber

They also dig for insects, especially beetles, larvae, and earthworms. Their diet includes black widow spiders and scorpions. Being carrion eaters, they help keep roadways and neighborhoods clean. An estimated 70 percent of a skunk's diet consists of insects considered harmful to humans.

There are four different kinds of skunks found in the United States. The spotted and striped skunks are the most widely distributed and therefore more likely to come into contact with people. The hooded and hog-nosed skunks are rarer and found mostly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The spotted skunk prefers the country and spends most of its life near farms. The striped skunk is more adaptable and lives in a variety of habitats.

Skunks are placid, retiring and non-aggressive. They try very hard not to get in harm’s way. They have a home range of a few hundred acres at most. They are primarily nocturnal and usually solitary – except when mothers are raising their babies. They are active throughout the year, but in northern areas, they spend the coldest parts of the winter in their dens.

Want more information about skunks? Browse our library of articles below.

Handling Skunks
Housebreaking Skunks
Skunk Diet
Veterinary Care for Skunks

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