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Skunks

Biology & Habits

  • Breeding usually occurs in late winter or early spring.
  • Males may travel up to 5 miles each night during the breeding season.
  • Males will mate with multiple females.
  • A female can store the male’s sperm and delay pregnancy for some weeks.
  • Older females bear young during early spring; younger females bear young later in the spring.
  • Younger or smaller females have smaller litters than older or larger females.
  • Gestation will average about 60-75 days and there is usually only 1 litter per year.
  • Litters can have up to 16, but usually only 4 to 6.
  • "Kits" are born blind, deaf, and helpless.
  • The kits remain in the nest and are weaned in about two months, then they will follow the mother as she forages, generally they will stay with their mother until they are ready to mate, at about one year of age.
  • The mother is very protective of her kits and will often spray at any sign of danger.
  • The male plays no part in raising the young and may even kill them.
  • They have a keen sense of smell and hearing, but poor vision and cannot see more than about 10 feet, which is why they are commonly struck and killed by traffic.
  • They are fairly short-lived, living 2 years in the wild and 3 years in captivity.
  • They occupy overlapping home ranges, normally l/2 to 2 miles in diameter for females and up to 7 miles for males.
  • Skunks will dig their own burrows with their powerful front claws or use abandoned dens of other animals, wood or rock piles, under buildings, stone walls, hay or brush piles and trees or stumps, hollow logs, or may climb trees and use hollow limbs, even abandoned buildings.
  • Skunks do not hibernate, but go into a semi-dormant stage during the winter.
  • They spend the winter in burrows or other underground burrow type dens.
  • As many as twelve females may huddle together in a communal den, males often den alone.
  • The same winter den is often repeatedly used.
  • Skunks eat both plant and animal materials and usually forage for food after dark.
  • They eat insects and larvae, grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets. They also commonly eat earthworms, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles, berries, roots, leaves, grasses, apples, grapes, fish, fungi, nuts, carrion, eggs of roosting chickens & ground-nesting birds, mice and rats. Cottontail rabbits, and other small mammals are taken when other food is scarce.

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