Striped skunks provide for numerous calls to our office from many nervous customers. The striped skunk is found throughout most of Canada and the United States and is common throughout the state of Illinois.
Skunks are cat sized mammals related to the weasel family. They are black in color with a distinctive white stripe located down the back. They are well known for the unique odor of it's musk. Striped skunks possess a pair of oval scent glands, one on each side of the anus. These glands are surrounded by powerful muscles and the compression of these force the musk out the glands and out the papillae located on the side of the anus. The skunk may compress one or both glands simultaneously. The musk is a sulfur-alcohol, nauseating and sure to grab your attention. The musk is discharged as an atomized spray or as a stream of droplets. The stream is accurate to 15 feet, so use caution when around these animals.
Striped skunks breed in February and March and male skunks travel great distances to seek out and find available females. After breeding, gestation is approximately 62 to 66 days and the kits are born about middle May. The average litter size is 5 to 7 but may be as low as 2 and as many as 10. When they are born, they have pink skin but the black and white pattern is easily seen. At two to four weeks of age the young skunks can open their eyes and at this point they are able to discharge their musk. Weaning occurs at approximately eight weeks and it is at this period customers often discover numerous baby skunks are living on their property. Frantic calls to the office increase dramatically. After being weaned, the young skunks begin to join their mother on nightly forays for food. After gaining their independence the young skunks disperse.
Skunks inhabit hay fields, open pasture, rolling woodlands, woodlots and rocky outcrops. They are especially fond of rock and conversely are fond of burrowing under abandoned buildings, concrete stoops and porches. Skunks prefer to use natural cavities versus digging a new den. Skunks may den alone or with other skunks and it has been discovered, in winter, will den with other species including rabbits, opossums and woodchucks. Striped skunks are omnivorous and feed on numerous foods and prey items. Some of the foods include crayfish, frogs, mice, voles, fruits, earthworms, ducks, snakes, ground squirrels, bird eggs, chipmunks, berries, nuts, insects and grubs.
Most skunks are solitary animals, not very social and most males will not tolerate one another. Most are docile and easy going. Generally they are nocturnal but may be seen during the daylight hours.
Damage caused by skunks include raids on livestock, nuisance burrowing under buildings, raiding garbage, digging up bee hives and grubbing. Grubbing occurs in early fall as skunks seek out the larvae left in the lawn by various species of beetle. Customers often report their lawn has turned brown and is easily lifted from the soil. The larvae (grubs) feed on the roots of the grass and destroy the turf. With the ensuing grub infestation, the skunks can destroy a lawn in a very short period. Skunks make small conical holes and surgically remove the grub from under the turf. Raccoons on the other hand will often peel the turf back in rolls to expose the larvae.
The most effective control method for this species is trapping.
Skunk eating bait at the front of trap.
Copyright by Prairie State Wildlife 2023.