Classification: Non-game Wildlife Species
Status: Nationally a valuable fur animal. Individual pelts are not very valuable but tremendous numbers are taken. Very abundant nongame animal.
Identifying Characteristics: About the size of a house cat. Well-developed scent glands that emit a very strong odor. Often the presence of a skunk is first detected by its odor. Black body, narrow white stripe on middle of the forehead, broad white area on nape that usually divides into a V at the shoulders. Great variation in color pattern and size of stripes.
Total length: 20 to 28 inches. Weights: 6 to 14 pounds.
Habitat: Lives in a variety of habitats including semi-open country, mixed woods, brushland, and open prairie. Most abundant in agricultural areas where there is ample food and cover. Usually absent where water table is too high for making round dens.
Food Habits: An opportunistic, omnivorous, predatory feeder. Consumes mice, insects, eggs, berries, and carrion. Diet varies greatly depending on season and geographic location. From November through April, when food is scarce or unavailable, skunks spend extended periods in their dens.
Life History: Mostly nocturnal and does not hibernate. Uses ground burrows, abandoned or occupied building foundations, and wood or rock piles as den sites. Will use dens created by other animals. When frightened or threatened, sprays a strong and long-lasting musk produced by anal scent glands. Mating occurs during February and April; 59 to 77 days gestation; may exhibit delayed implantation; young born during May or June; 5 to 6 young is the usual litter size.
Similar Species: A few specimens of the spotted skunk have been captured in Montana. The spotted skunk has a black spot on forehead, one under each ear, and four broken white stripes along neck, back, and sides.
The Latin word "mephitis" translates to "bad odor", and many people would agree that the name "bad odor - bad odor" aptly fits the common and abundant striped skunk.
Smaller spotted skinks are also distributed widely, and two species are recognized. Known as "civets" to the fur trade, the western spotted skinks experience a delayed implantation reproduction, while the eastern skunks do not. All species of skunks are attracted to a wide variety of baits, and they are frequently caught in traps set for other species.