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striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis mephitis)

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

This species is the size of a house cat, with small rounded ears and black eyes. The triangular head tapers to a bulbous nose pad and the tail is long and bushy. The coarse long black fur has 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 from 600-700 mm, with males being larger than the females. Breeding is from February-March, with a litter averaging 5-8 young born in May. The young may follow the mother single file on hunting trips. They are nocturnal, and are most active at dawn and dusk. Longevity is 2-3.5 years, seldom over 5-6 years in the wild.

Distribution

This subspecies of striped skunk is found in the west half of the state only. This species prefers brushy fields and forest borders. Deciduous vegetation is preferred to be low, second growth, with 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 and only occasionally take ducks and available pheasants. Insects, and small mammals are used more in the spring and summer, with more plant matter (fruit) used in the fall and winter. Captured prey is consumed immediately except caterpillars and toads which are rolled on the ground to remove chitinous spines, and skin toxins.

More Information

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