Spotted Skunk: Spilogale Putorius
Description Of The Spotted Skunk
The medium-sized, slender mammal with a small head, short legs, and a prominent, long-haired tail is the spotted skunk. They have small eyes and short ears. The fur is rather long, smooth, and lustrous. Black with conspicuous white stripes and spots is the overall pattern of this species’ coat. There is a white spot on the forehead and before each ear.
Four white stripes extend from the head to the middle of the body along the neck, back, and sides. The tail is generally all black, with a white tip sometimes.
The spotted skunk is also called a civet cat, but because this mammal is not closely related to the Old World’s true civets or cats, this name is misleading and incorrect. 1Go To Source nature.mdc.mo.gov -“EASTERN SPOTTED SKUNK Spilogale putorius”
Learn More: Nuisance Skunk Species
Spotted Skunk Average Size
- Total Length: 17.5- 21.7 in (Male: 18.5- 21.17 in) (Female: 17.5- 19 in)
- Tail Length: 6.6- 13 in (Male: 7- 8.7 in) (Female: 6.5- 7.9 in)
- Body Weight: 0.7- 5.3 lbs (Male: 0.9- 4.0 lbs) (Female: 0.7- 1.3 lbs)
Behavior Of Spotted Skunks
They’re nocturnal skunks that are self-absorbed and shortsighted. They usually have a range of half a mile from their den: spotted skunks very mobile, agile climbers, and a great digger.
Females do mate selection. When the kits are born, until they are mature, they remain with their mother in a “family,” often following her in a single file line as they travel. Skunks are not true hibernators, but in groups of up to 20 or so, females often den up and sleep during the winter for weeks at a time. Males stay alone all winter and move around (Skunks).
Like all skunks, this skunk has two scent glands located on each side of its anus that spray a very foul-smelling musk as a defense against the predator. Skunk defense signs can be identified as raising its tail, stomping, hissing, charging, scratching, or aiming.
It is also possible to see these defensive warning signs in the play of young skunks. The skunk usually aims at the attacker’s eyes, temporarily blinding it and assaulting its smell with the liquid-containing yellowish colored butyl mercaptan that can be ejected up to 10 feet. Mercaptans, or thiols, are sulfur-containing organic compounds.
Skunks are also bothered by their smell and will avoid spraying near each other and their denning sites. The spray’s intensity can be modified and directed by the’ nipples’ through which they emit these chemicals. For them to spray, however, their hind feet have to be set on something. Young skunks don’t have as strong a scent or spray, as a fully grown spotted skunk. 2Go To Source animaldiversity.org -“Spilogale gracilis western spotted skunk”
Spotted Skunk Reproduction Cycle
During March and April, the eastern spotted skunk breeds. They may not implant themselves in the uterus for up to two weeks after the eggs are fertilized. After a 50 to 65 day gestation period, the kittens are born in May or June.
The litter ranges from two to nine kittens (usually five). With their eyes and ears closed, kittens are born and weigh about 10 grams. They are born with a sparse fine fur coat, already evident in the black and white markings. Their claws are well developed, and by the fourth day after birth, they start crawling around the nest.
Baby skunks open their ears and eyes one month after birth and develop teeth after 5 weeks. The kittens begin to explore close to the den with the female shortly after this time. Six weeks after birth, they start eating solid food, and by eight weeks, they are usually weaned. After approximately 14-16 weeks after birth, they disperse from their natal burrow and reach adult size by the middle of October of their first year.
Habitat Of The Spotted Skunk
Spotted skunks prefer rocky areas or cover, which helps them hide and construct den sites from potential aerial and terrestrial predators. They are found in young (less than 50 years old), dense forest stands, and mature forest stands with extensive shrub cover in the Appalachian Mountains.
Significant microhabitats are provided by dead and downed trees and abundant woody debris. The spotted skunk species is known to inhabit hedgerows and fields in some southeastern states. Spotted skunks are tree climbers, unlike striped skunks, and may den or rest above ground.
Dens are used for rest, protection against bad weather and predation, and raising youth. Spotted skunks typically locate dens, including shrubs, debris piles, burrows, hollow logs/stumps, tree cavities, and under and between rocks, within an existing protective cover. 4Go To Source ncwildlife.org -“Eastern Spotted Skunk North Carolina Wildlife Profiles”
Spotted Skunk Range In North America
In the United States, the spotted skunk has a somewhat limited distribution. It varies through the southeastern states from the northern Midwest down. Localized populations occur eastward to southern Florida along the Gulf Coast of northern Mexico.
Distribution maps show that this species is not present in the extreme northwestern United States and is noticeably absent from the central and northeastern United States of America in the north. 5Go To Source outdooralabama.com -“Eastern Spotted Skunk”
Diet Of Spotted Skunks
The spotted skunk is an omnivorous mammal. They eat corn and cottontails in the winter, insects and native field mice in the spring, insects and small quantities of fruit, birds, bird eggs in the summer, and most insects in the fall. 6Go To Source animalia.bio -“EASTERN SPOTTED SKUNK”
Spotted Skunk Predators
There are no normal predators for the spotted skunk as it shoots its musk to defend itself. Nevertheless, great horned owls and bobcats are known to attack them. Skunks are most vulnerable to prey during their infant moths when their spray and scent are not very powerful. 7Go To Source blueplanetbiomes.org -“Spotted Skunk”
Conservation Of The Spotted Skunk Species
The Appalachians, Great Plains, and Southeastern U.S. regions were a common habitat of spotted skunks until the 1940s, when populations collapsed (except for the Florida subspecies). Populations have continued to decline precipitously since the 1940s, except for the stable population of Florida.
Modernization of farming practices (removal of hedgerows, clearing edges, use of pesticides) and trapping may have contributed to the declines, but no definitive causes have been identified. Populations in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa are critically imperiled and imperiled, and South Dakota is vulnerable. 8Go To Source mnmammals.d.umn.edu -“Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius)”
- Staff, MDC. “Eastern Spotted Skunk.” MDC Discover Nature, State Of Missouri, nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/eastern-spotted-skunk. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.
- Hakkinen, K. 2001. “Spilogale gracilis” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 26, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Spilogale_gracilis/
- “Weasels (Family Mustelidae).” KARS- Kansas Applied Remote Sensing, Kansas University, kars.ku.edu/media/kufs/libres/Mammals_of_Kansas/spilogale.html#:%7E:text=Reproduction%3A%20The%20eastern%20spotted%20skunk,nine%20(usually%20five)%20kittens. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.
- Olfenbuttel, Colleen. “Eastern Spotted Skunk North Carolina Wildlife Profiles.” North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, 2018, www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Learning/documents/Profiles/Mammals/Spotted_Skunk_Wildlife%20Profile_2018_FINAL.pdf.
- Sievering, Mike. “Eastern Spotted Skunk.” Outdoor Alabama, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, www.outdooralabama.com/carnivores/eastern-spotted-skunk. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.
- “Eastern Spotted Skunk – Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures on Animalia.Bio.” Animalia, Animalia, animalia.bio/eastern-spotted-skunk. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.
- O., Will. “Blue Planet Biomes – Spotted Skunk.” Blue Planet Biomes, Blue Planet Biomes, 2002, www.blueplanetbiomes.org/spotted_skunk.php.
- “Spotted Skunk (Spilogale Putorius) | Minnesota Mammals | UMN Duluth.” University Of Minnesota Duluth, University of Minnesota, mnmammals.d.umn.edu/spotted-skunk. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.