Why do skunks stink

Mephitinae skunk


What does a skunk look like?

Skunks are also called skunks. They belong to the marten family and thus to the predators.

Unlike martens, however, they are much more powerfully built: their body is stocky and fairly wide, the legs are relatively short and the muzzle is pointed. They have a long, bushy tail.

All skunk species have one thing in common: their black and white patterned, long-haired fur. In the striped skunk, the stomach, legs, sides and head are colored black. The back, the back of the head and the tail are white. The pattern can, however, be different in animals of the same species.

A narrow, white stripe runs from the forehead to the nose - that's where the name Streifenskunk comes from.

Striped kunks measure 40 centimeters, their tail is 25 centimeters long. But there are also skunk species that measure only 35 centimeters, while others are up to 49 centimeters long.

Small, round ears sit on the head of the skunks, and they have strong claws on the front and rear paws.

Where does the skunk live?

Skunks are only found in North and South America. Strip scunks occur from southern Canada to northern Mexico.

Skunks live in steppes, semi-deserts and bushland. Often they can also be found in the vicinity of human settlements. They don't like thick forests. They inhabit caves that they either dig themselves or take over from other animals such as badgers.

What types of skunks are there?

There are nine different species of skunk. The best known is the strip skunk, which is also called Canada kunk and lives in North America.

There is also the long-tailed skunk, the spotted skunk and six different types of white-legged skunk.

The Belarusian Skunk include, for example, the Chilean Skunk, the Patagonian Skunk and the Amazon Skunk.

How old does a skunk get?

Strip skunks live to be around seven years old, while other species of skunk can live up to ten years.


How does a skunk live?

The name of the skunks already reveals what their most important distinguishing feature is: They can inject a very foul-smelling substance from two special glands on the right and left of the anus.

But they only do that when they feel threatened and are attacked.

If that happens, the skunk turns its rear end towards the attacker, erects its tail and sprays the liquid on the opponent.

Most of the time, skunks hit the enemy directly in the face from up to four meters away. This liquid smells unbearably like a mixture of garlic, sulfur and burnt rubber.

The liquid is not harmful to healthy skin. However, if it gets on the mucous membranes, it can cause vomiting and headaches.

If it gets in the eyes, the animal or man can even go blind for a short time.

If the smelly liquid hits items of clothing, there is only one thing left: throw it away! The unbearable stench cannot be removed by any detergent in the world.

When a skunk is nervous and attacks, the most important mark is its erect tail. As the very last warning, it then turns its head to the attacker and bares its teeth: Now at the latest, you should run away as quickly as possible!

Skunks are mostly active at dusk and at night and then roam around in search of food. But sometimes you can also see them during the day.

Skunks are sociable animals that live in groups. Only at the mating season do the males become solitary.

Skunks live in fixed territories. There they inhabit caves in the ground, which they pad with soft grass and leaves. Sometimes they also move into abandoned burrows or live in the different caves of a burrow together with other animals.

Only Spotted Skunks climb trees and sometimes build their nests in tree hollows. Skunks mark their territory and the paths they regularly use with droppings.

Skunks are leisurely animals and usually move very slowly. They are seldom seen running, and although they can swim, they almost never go into the water.

Species living in North America do not hibernate in winter, only a so-called hibernation.

Friends and enemies of the skunk

Many large predators, such as bears and pumas, know very well that skunks spray off a foul-smelling secretion and therefore avoid them. Birds of prey, on the other hand, are not bothered by the stench; they attack skunks from time to time. In North America, most skunks die from being run over by cars.

How does the skunk reproduce?

Depending on the species, skunks have a different gestation period. In the case of streak skunks, it lasts between 50 and 77 days, and in the case of streak scunks it is said to last up to 250 days. The mating season of the North American skunks is in February and March, that of the South American in midsummer.

Most of the time a female gives birth to four to six cubs, sometimes as many as sixteen. Skunk babies are still very helpless: they are blind and have no fur yet; it only grows after 20 days.

Between the 20th and the 30th day they open their eyes and after 35 days they start walking.

The mother nurses her young for six to eight weeks. The skunk cubs stay with their mother for the entire first year of life.

By the age of five weeks, skunk babies have developed stink glands. First of all, the liquid it contains doesn't stink until the little ones are seven weeks old.


What does the skunk eat?

Skunks have a very varied diet: They eat insects and worms and mice, but also plants. Every now and then they also catch animals the size of a rabbit. Sometimes they also fish by trying to get fish out of the water with one front paw.

Skunks do not stop at poisonous animals such as snakes, bees or wasps. In search of food, skunks walk slowly around, their noses always close to the ground.

Skunk attitude

Because of their valuable fur, skunks are now also bred in fur farms.

However, such animals have their stink glands removed.

Skunks can even become quite tame in captivity. However, they are not suitable as pets.