What is Skunk? Skunk facts, living habitat, kinds, reproduction. Information on Skunk animal.
Skunk; any of a subfamily of small carnivorous mammals closely related to weasels and known for the foul-smelling anal secretions they discharge when in danger. They are sometimes incorrectly called “polecats.” Skunks are found only in the Western Hemisphere, from Canada to the southern tip of South America. They are always black and white, the white variously arranged in bands and spots.
Skunks are of ten about the size of a domestic cat and have long tails thickly covered with long hair. The head is usually small, with small ears and bright blackish eyes. The legs are short and the paws comparatively large. Skunks have five elongated toes with long nonretractile claws. The fur, which is sometimes used for jackets or trimmings, is often coarse, although in some spotted skunks it may be rather silky.
During the day, skunks frequently remain concealed in their “derıs,” of ten in bushyar rocky areas. They usually emerge at dusk to search for worms, insects, birds and small mammals and their young, and the eggs of ground-nesting birds. Skunks generally move at a slow, leisurely pace and do not attempt to run if pursued, relying on their well-developed ability to defend themselves by discharging their rank-smelling anal secretion.
When in danger and preparing to defend himself, the skunk of ten gives a few warning signs: he turns his back, of ten stands up on his front legs, and erects his tail. Then, by means of forceful muscular contractions, the skunk ejects the contents of its anal pouches. The force of the contractions can send the pale yellow spray from LO to 15 feet (3-4.5 meters). The foul odor is so penetrating that it may sometimes be perceptible a mile (1.6 km) away and so persistent that elothes contaminated with the spray of ten cannot be entirely freed of the smell. The fluid, which contains the chemical butyl mercaptan, can cause severe inflammation of the eyes and in some cases has been known to cause blindness. Oddly, once the odor has been removed from the fluid, the musklike substance is sometimes used in perfumes.
Skunks generally mate in the early spring. Their incubation period varies from about 42 days for some South American species to a reported 120 days for a spotted skunk species, but it is generally about 50 to 60 days. The litter may number from 4 to 8 or 10. The young kittens are born blind and naked and nurse for about seven or eight weeks. Skunks can be tamed when young and make good pets. The anal scent glands can be removed, although a pet skunk does not spray unless greatly irritated.
Skunks make up the subfamily Mephitinae of the family Mustelidae. The approximately 10 species are classified in 3 genera: Mephitis (striped skunks ) , Spilogale ( spotted skunks ), and Conepatus (hog-nosed skunks).
The comman striped skunk (M. mephitis) is found throughout North America and is sometimes exceedingly common, even in farming areas. It usually has a white line on the forehead and a white patch on the nape, which diverges into two stripes that extend along the back. Its bushy tail is also more or less white. In the northern part of its range, the common skunk sleeps through winter, only occasionally searching for food. The hooded skunk (M. macroura), a slenderer, longer-tailed species, is found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. It does not usually have the bifurcated white dorsal band of the common skunk.
Distributed over the southern and western parts of the United States and most of Mexico and Central America, the spotted skunks are smailer than the striped skunks, usually only about 1.5 to 2 feet (45-60 cm) long. They generally have a white patch on the forehead, more or less broken white dorsal bands, and a white-tipped tail. More agile than other skunks, spotted skunks of ten perform acrobatics on their forelegs and are the only skunks known to climb trees. Theyare active throughout the year and may in same areas bear two litters a year.
About six species of skunks with distinct bare, protruding, piglike snouts are found in the southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America, and throughout South America. In coloring, these hog-nosed skunks often resemble the striped skunks or have a white back and tail. They seldom, if ever, hibernate.