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striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis nigra)

Photos

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

This skunk is the size of a house cat, with small rounded ears, and black eyes. The triangular head tapers to a bulbous nose pad, tail is long and bushy, and the coarse long fur is black with a thin white stripe from the nose to the forehead, and a broad stripe from the crown of the head which may branch at the shoulders, continuing toward the tail. They have highly developed musk glands. The total length is 575-625 mm. The breeding season is from February-March, with a litter of 2-10 young being born in May. The young will follow the mother single file on hunting trips. They are nocturnal and are most active at dawn and dusk. They den alone or communally in the winter. They are usually in other animals burrows, or they dig their own, with several well-hidden entrances and lined chambers. Longevity is 2-3.5 years and they seldom are over 5-6 years in the wild.

Distribution

This subspecies of striped skunk is found only in the eastern half of the state. They prefer bushy fields, and forest borders. They like deciduous forests that are low, second growth and more open areas over dense forests. They are normally found within 2 miles of water.

Foods

They eat honey, birds (mostly ground-nesting) and their eggs, occasionally ducks, and available pheasants. Insects and small mammals are used more in the spring and summer, with more plant matter (fruit) in the fall and winter. Captured prey are consumed immediately except caterpillars, and toads which are rolled on the ground to remove chitinous spines, and skin toxins. They also eat fresh carrion.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).