Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

Photograph of the Striped Skunk


The Striped Skunk is a medium-sized, robust-bodied skunk with a white stripe on either side of its back that extend up over the head and down the sides of its bushy tail. The two large scent glands near the base of their tail produce the skunk's notoriously pungent scent, or musk.
Life History
Striped Skunks are largely nocturnal and rarely leave their dens until evening, returning early in the morning. In late fall they become extremely fat. In Texas, they seem more active in winter than in the heat of summer. Skunks are social animals. Several individuals will often occupy a winter den in a good location.

They eat a varied diet of both plants and animals. Insects form the bulk of their diet, but they also eat reptiles, small mammals, birds, and vegetation.

Their breeding period begins in February or March. The young are born in early May, with average litters consisting of five offspring. Some females have two litters a year, but one litter per year is more common. The nursery is a cavity under a rock, a burrow, or a thicket of cactus or other protective vegetation. Usually the mother builds a nest of dried grasses and weed stems for the blind, helpless young. Baby skunks must remain hidden in their nest until they can see and are strong enough to follow their mother.

Striped Skunks have a lifespan of about two years in the wild, but they have few natural enemies. Like humans, most predators avoid skunks because of the odor of their musk. When threatened or disturbed, skunks make a purring sound and often growl when attacked by humans. Prior to spraying the intruder with musk, skunks put on a defensive display by rising upon their hind feet, lurching forward, stamping both front feet, and at the same time clicking their teeth.
The skunk is found in wooded or brushy areas and farmlands. They prefer taking shelter in rocky outcrops or under large boulders, but when these are unavailable, skunks choose to den in the abandoned burrows of other animals.
They are distributed statewide in Texas.