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Scientific Name: Mephitis mephitis
Classification: Furbearer and game species
Abundance: Occupies most of the state (green); rare
to absent in certain Coastal Plain counties
Species Profile (PDF)
Coexisting with Skunks (PDF)
The striped skunk is well known for its black and white coloration and its ability to spray a smelly secretion from scent sacs located in its hind quarters. On each side of the anus is a scent gland surrounded by muscles. When alarmed, skunks contract the muscles around the gland and spray a yellowish, nauseating musk. The secretion causes momentary blindness and a terrible, lingering smell. Because of this natural “chemical weapon,” people and other animals avoid the skunk and treat it with caution.
Striped skunks are about the size of a large housecat. Although the amount and location of black and white fur varies from skunk to skunk, the white fur, beginning on the top of the head, usually separates into two white stripes that run down its back. The tail is long, bushy and black and white. The head is small and triangular-shaped. The skunk has small rounded ears and beady black eyes. The legs are short and the front feet are equipped with long curved claws for digging. Males are usually 10 percent larger than females.
Skunks live in areas with a mixture of woods, brush and open fields broken up by wooded ravines and rocky outcrops. They prefer timbered areas and pastures with good water sources. Skunks create dens by digging into slopes of hills and spend most of the day there. They hunt and move mostly at night or early morning. Skunks do not hibernate, but, during cold weather, they become dormant and remain in the den most of the winter. During this time their body temperature remains near normal. Several skunks may share the same winter den. The skunk is an omnivore, with about 80 percent of its diet consisting of insects, worms, small rodents, bird eggs and reptiles. It also eats berries, acorns and other vegetable matter. Skunks are adept at digging and swimming. They primarily use their nose and ears to forage for food, due to poor eyesight. Learn more by reading the Striped Skunk species profile.
The striped skunk is considered a furbearer species with an open season for hunting; however, it can only be trapped during the regulated trapping season. No bag limits for either season.
Striped Skunk Hunting Regulations
Striped Skunk Trapping Regulations
Because skunks move mostly at night, many people never see them unless they are raiding a trash can or get hit by a car. If a person frightens a striped skunk, the skunk first faces the person, straightens its legs, arches its back, puts its tail straight up and bristles the tail hair to give the appearance that it is bigger than it is. It also clicks its teeth and stamps the ground. If the person or animal continues to advance, the skunk bends its body sideways in the form of a “U” so that the hindquarters face the person, then it squirts the musk. Ammonia or tomato juice help remove the odor, if you are sprayed. Carbolic soap and water is best for washing the skin.
Skunks are often poisoned in the mistaken belief that all skunks have rabies. While skunks are one of the main carriers of rabies in North America, the chances of encountering a rabid skunk are very low.
For issues regarding striped skunks, contact the Wildlife Commission's Wildlife Helpline, Mon-Fri, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 866-318-2401.
For more information about living around skunks read the "Coexist with Skunks" document.
Range Map (PDF)
Striped Skunk species profile
Coexist with Skunks