Wondrous Wildlife

By Vern and Lori Geiger

Pole Cat Cologne #5

 

We have all gotten a whiff of that pungent and unpleasant aroma telling us something black, white and small is nearby; but how small? The rare spotted skunk a cousin to the larger stripped skunk is found locally also. This little guy is about the size of a kitten and just as cute. Unlike a kitten you smell them before you see them, and surely don’t want them in your house. As one couple found out, it wasn’t Santa that came down the chimney, and unlike Santa he couldn’t climb back out. But I figure in a few days and some pleasant smelling scented candles, their bedroom will be fit for human habitation.

Unlike the stripped skunk the small spotted skunk is quite adept at climbing, which can lead to trouble. Normally they are found in rocky and brushy areas near streams. They can live in a variety of temperatures. Typically, the spotted skunk builds a den in the ground and lines it with leaves. Skunks are nocturnal, relatively shy and tend to avoid humans; however, like all wildlife they do search out food wherever they can find it. Spotted skunks are small only about one to three pounds; therefore their diet tends to be a bit different than their larger stronger cousins. The spotted skunk loves to munch on insects, including the dreaded scorpion, as well as mice and other smaller mammals.

All skunks can spray their predators; it is their main defense. They have two glands filled with about one tablespoon of potent musk. They can spray with great accuracy up to 12 feet. However, there is a unique procedure the skunk follows before spraying its opponent. Being courteous, they first give a warning by stamping their front paws. If the intruder pays no heed, the spotted skunk stands stiff, then struts around, and ultimately stands up on its front paws and waves its rear end in the air. Then look out, the perfume sprays; most animals take the hint and stay away from skunks after they have been sprayed. Not only can the odor linger for days, if their challenger happens to be sprayed in the face making contact with the eyes and or nose; it stings, burns and can cause the eyes to water profusely. Much like what happens to us when we cut into a strong onion.

The female spotted skunk gives birth in the late spring to early summer to a litter of two to six young. The newborn skunks are covered with fine hair that shows the adult color pattern. The eyes open at approximately four weeks. The kits start eating solid foods at about six weeks of age and are weaned at about two months. They are full-grown and reach adult size at about four months of age. The males do not help in rearing the babies. As adults, they live a solitary life and seldom have contact with one another except during mating season, though, in cooler climates during the winter months, they can share dens. Skunks bicker and scrap with each other, scratching and biting, but, interestingly, they do not spray each other. Perhaps they figure—what’s the point?!

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