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Striped Skunk

Moufette d'Amérique

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Striped Skunk

Fcats about the Striped Skunk

Family:  Mustelidae
Length:  50 to 75 cm
Weight:  1 to 6 kilos
Moult:  In spring and fall
Sexual Maturity:  At 7 months
Life span: 4 years
Very near-sighted.

  • Excellent sense of smell.
  • Legs are short, feet have non-retractable claws.
  • Long and lustrous pelage is black. A thin white line runs down the middle of the face. Head is white on top. Two wide white stripes run along the back and join at the nape of the neck. 
  • Long, bushy tail, 17 to 28 cm in length, is black and often speckled with white hairs.

The Striped Skunk is a ticking « stink bomb », which is an apt description if you’ve ever seen, or smelt, what it can do!

There are 4 subspecies of skunks in Canada.

A relative of the weasel

MoufetteThe Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is a member of the family Mustelidae which also includes weasels, minks and otters. Striped skunks occur throughout continental North America, but are not present in the most northerly regions of Canada or in coastal British Columbia.

 

A variety of habitats

The skunk is found in a wide variety of habitats: woodlands combining coniferous and deciduous trees, hardwood forests, prairies and farmlands. It is not territorial and adapts easily to life in towns, cities and suburbs. When a family of skunks moves into your neighbourhood, you can bet your life will be quite annoying at times!

In single file

 

At the end of the summer and throughout the autumn, the mother skunk can be seen with her young, all walking in single file behind her. At the age of 2 months, they’ve learned to forage for food and come the fall, they are self-reliant.  Young skunks often elect to spend the winter in the warmth of their mother’s den.

Very useful omnivores

 

Skunks consume a lot of small mammals and depending on seasonal availability, they supplement their diet with seeds, nuts, fruits, grub, carrion, insects, nestlings and amphibians. They are especially useful because some of the organisms they eat are harmful to humans.  Skunks hunt from sunset until dawn, but are also out and about during the day. 

A most unusual perfume

 

When defending itself, a skunk will first give several warnings; it will growl, stamp its front feet and lift its tail in the air. If its attacker persists, it then contracts its 2 anal glands and sprays its assailant with a very nauseating, yellowish liquid. Not only is the skunk’s aim very precise, it can discharge its musk up to a distance of 5 or 6 m, in 4 or 5 squirts if necessary.  The skunk needs a few days to replenish its supply of « perfume ».

A skunk’s life is a fairly peaceful one since its spray keeps most predators away … except for the Great Horned Owl, which doesn’t seem to mind (or maybe it can’t smell) the skunk’s spray. On rare occasions, a bobcat, fox, coyote or fisher will prey on a skunk, usually when there’s no other prey available.

The den
Skunks generally take over an abandoned groundhog burrow or foxhole. Measuring 2 to 6 m in length, the den is approximately 1 m below ground and may have as many as 5 entrances. The denning chamber is padded with leaves and grasses. Skunks may also take up residence beneath a building, under a tree stump or in a rock-pile. 

THE STRIPED SKUNK SEASON BY SEASON

Spring

Moufette bébé

With the arrival of spring, the male sets out in search of females. Male skunks are polygamous, meaning a single male will mate with several females. The female comes into heat for a mere 9 or 10 days a year. Both partners are very aggressive during the actual mating, which tends to look more like a boxing match than an amorous encounter. Once they have mated, the female drives off the male.   

In early May, following a gestation of 62 to 68 days, the mother gives birth to an average of 5 or 6  babies. They are covered with a coat of fine fur that is marked with the black and white pattern they’ll have as adults. At birth, baby skunks weigh about 30 g; they barely measure 10 cm long including the tail.  The babies grow very quickly: in only a week they have doubled in weight.  They are blind for the first 3 weeks of their life. When they are a month old, they start learning how to lift their tails.  

Summer

Young skunks love to rough house. Once they are fully weaned, at around 6 or 7 weeks of age, they start leaving the den. From this point on, they are able to spray any enemies they may come across. 

Most of the time, skunks take shelter in a burrow that has been abandoned by a groundhog, a fox or other small mammal. Skunks will also make their home under a building, a porch, a wood-pile, etc.

Despite its sluggish walk, an adult skunk can run as fast as 15 km/h. Skunks are poor climbers but do better at swimming although they’re not all that fond of getting wet.

Winter

MoufetteCome the fall, a skunk will have accumulated enough body fat to last it through the winter A skunk will lose about 30 % of its body weight during winter.

With the first cold snap, the mother settles down with her young in an underground den. Skunks spend the winter in groups of up to 12 individuals in the same den, consisting mainly of females and their offspring. Although the odd male may join a group, most of the time males take shelter in their own dens.    

By December, the skunks are in a deep sleep that will last until March. They are in a state of semi-hibernation, during which their metabolism slows down considerably. On winter days when the weather turns mild, males and to a far lesser extent females and their young, often awaken from their lethargic state and leave the den on brief forages for food. 

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Comments

M.

Par MICHEL MILLAIRE, 2017-01-23, 13h54

Quelle hauteur dois-je faire un petit mur pour empêcher une moufette de l'escalader...est-ce que 24 pouces est suffisant ?

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