Skunks: Spilogale putorius & Mephitis mephitis
Both skunk species are about the size of a house cat with a
small head, short legs, and a bushy tail.
Florida is home to both the Eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale
putorius) and the Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). They occur
throughout Florida except for the Keys.
Both species occur in brushy fields, weedy pastures, disturbed
areas, and in residential and suburban areas.
Skunks are usually active at night.
Skunks are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animal and vegetable
substances. They may be attracted by insects commonly found
in lawns, fruit trees, gardens, or wherever food scraps are
kept. They will den in vacant armadillo or gopher tortoise
burrows (though they can dig their own) or brush piles, wood piles,
areas with high grass, and similar sources of shelter.
Female skunks generally give birth to a litter of 4-7 babies in
the spring. Newborns are blind and have very fine hair with the
same black and white pattern as they would have as adults.
When they are about six weeks old, the young follow their mother on
food forays, searching for small mammals, insects, bird eggs, and
amphibians, as well as roots, seeds, fruit and other plant parts.
The mother and young stay together for several months, emerging
from their underground burrows at night.
addition to teaching their young how to find food, mother skunks
also model defensive strategies, the most effective of these being
a pungent spray of oily musk from scent glands located near the
anus. The spray is effectively aimed at targets up to 15 feet away.
The spray deters predators such as foxes, bobcats, coyotes and
domestic dogs. Their chief predator is the great horned
If you have problems with skunks you may be able to resolve the
problem by simply removing the source of food attracting them. The
animal may be caught in a trap, but relocating nuisance wildlife is
illegal. If you catch a skunk in a trap, avoid being sprayed
by slowly approaching the trapped skunk and cover the trap with a
small tarp or towel. The trap must be moved very carefully
without jarring the animal or frightening it by letting it see
you. Skunks, like all mammals, can carry rabies, but this has
not been a serious problem in Florida. FWC does not recommend
handling wildlife with your bare hands.
Image Credit: Kristen Nelson