Deer in Spring Landscape

Striped Skunk
(Mephitis mephitis)

Description & Range:

Eastern striped skunks are about the size of a house cat. Striped skunks weigh up to 8 pounds. They have a small, white stripe on their forehead which splits and expands down the sides of its back. They have a long, bushy tail made up of white and black hairs.

Eastern striped skunks are relatively common throughout the United States and can be found throughout Maryland.

Striped Skunk Image by: Erwin C. Nielsen/Painet Inc.

Habitat:

Striped skunks like habitats with a variety of woods and open areas like fields. They are considered habitat generalists and can be found in an assortment of areas, especially in and around edges. Striped skunks do need to live within at least 2 miles of a water source, though.

Diet:

Striped skunks are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plant and animal materials. Striped skunk diet includes insects (especially grubs), small mammals, earthworms, snails, grains, nuts, fruits, reptiles, vegetation, amphibians, birds, eggs, carrion and garbage.

Reproduction:

Striped skunks mate in late-February through early March. Gestation typically takes 62-68 days, after which an average of 6 helpless young are born. At 3 weeks old, the young skunks can open their eyes and crawl around. The skunks are unable to venture out of the den and spray until they are 7 weeks old. Young skunks leave their mother in the Fall.

Baby Striped skunk in Tree Image by: Robert Barber/Painet Inc

Behavior:

Striped skunks are primarily nocturnal animals which lead solitary lives aside from occasional communal denning. Striped skunks do not hibernate but will spend multiple days sleeping during inclement winter weather.

When threatened, striped skunks will try to run away or will stomp their front feet as a warning signal. However, if those tactics do not work, then the skunk will stand on its front feet and spray a foul smelling liquid (butyl mercaptan) out of special scent glands in its behind.

Management:

Striped skunks are managed as furbearers in Maryland. Click here to learn more information about management of the species.