Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

Skunk sniffing dry grass

Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

Because of the prominent white stripe running down their back, their stinky reputation, and maybe with a little help from Pepe le Pew, skunks are well-known and easily distinguished critters. They are quite versatile, living in woody and grassy habitats ranging from urban areas to wilderness across the United States.

Skunks aren’t the type to look for trouble, but they are equipped with powerful defense in case trouble finds them. When they feel threatened, skunks raise their tail, arch their back, and stomp their front feet in warning. If the threat presses on, the skunk does not turn away. Instead, they bring their rump around, and we all know what happens next – the skunk releases a powerful, odorous spray that can extend nearly 20 feet away, causing quite the unpleasant experience for the intruder. Alongside its obnoxious stench, the smelly substance can cause pain, nausea, and temporary blindness.

Despite this famous defensive device, skunks unfortunately have an extremely high mortality rate, often being killed by disease, predators, or road incidents within their first year of living. Watch out while driving in the park, especially at night when skunks are most active!

Written by Shawna Wolf
PC: Daniel Arndt on Flickr