Skunks are North and South American mammals in the family Mephitidae. While related to polecats and other members of the weasel family, skunks have as their closest Old World relatives the stink badgers. The animals are known for their ability to spray a liquid with a strong, unpleasant smell. Different species of skunk vary in appearance from black-and-white to brown, cream or ginger colored, but all have warning coloration.
The word "skunk" is an Americanism from the 1630s, the Massachusetts reflex of proto-Algonquian squunck, from a southern New England Algonquian language (probably Abenaki) seganku, from Proto-Algonquian */šeka:kwa/, from */šek-/ "to urinate" + */-a:kw/ "fox." "Skunk" has historic use as an insult, attested from 1841. Skunk cabbage is attested from 1751; earlier skunkweed (1738). In 1634, a skunk was described in the Jesuit Relations:
The other is a low animal, about the size of a little dog or cat. I mention it here, not on account of its excellence, but to make of it a symbol of sin. I have seen three or four of them. It has black fur, quite beautiful and shining; and has upon its back two perfectly white stripes, which join near the neck and tail, making an oval which adds greatly to their grace. The tail is bushy and well furnished with hair, like the tail of a Fox; it carries it curled back like that of a Squirrel. It is more white than black; and, at the first glance, you would say, especially when it walks, that it ought to be called Jupiter's little dog. But it is so stinking, and casts so foul an odor, that it is unworthy of being called the dog of Pluto. No sewer ever smelled so bad. I would not have believed it if I had not smelled it myself. Your heart almost fails you when you approach the animal; two have been killed in our court, and several days afterward there was such a dreadful odor throughout our house that we could not endure it. I believe the sin smelled by Saint Catherine de Sienne must have had the same vile odor.
Skunk species vary in size from about 15.6 to 37 in (40 to 94 cm) long and in weight from about 1.1 lb (0.50 kg) (spotted skunks) to 18 lb (8.2 kg) (hog-nosed skunks). They have moderately elongated bodies with relatively short, well-muscled legs and long front claws for digging.
Although the most common fur color is black and white, some skunks are brown or grey and a few are cream-colored. All skunks are striped, even from birth. They may have a single thick stripe across back and tail, two thinner stripes, or a series of white spots and broken stripes (in the case of the spotted skunk). Some also have stripes on their legs.
Skunks are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material and changing their diets as the seasons change. They eat insects, larvae, earthworms, grubs, rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles, and eggs. They also commonly eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi and nuts.
In settled areas, skunks also seek garbage left by humans. Less often, skunks may be found acting as scavengers, eating bird and rodent carcasses left by cats or other animals. Pet owners, particularly those of cats, may experience a skunk finding its way into a garage or basement where pet food is kept. Skunks commonly dig holes in lawns in search of grubs and worms.
Skunks are one of the primary predators of the honeybee, relying on their thick fur to protect them from stings. The skunk scratches at the front of the beehive and eats the guard bees that come out to investigate. Mother skunks are known to teach this behavior to their young. In addition, in California, skunks dig up yellow-jacket (small hornet) nests in summer, after the compacted soil under oak trees dries out and cracks open, which allows the yellow-jackets to build their nests underground.
Skunks are crepuscular and solitary animals when not breeding, though in the colder parts of their range, they may gather in communal dens for warmth. During the day they shelter in burrows, which they can dig with their powerful front claws. Males and females occupy overlapping home ranges through the greater part of the year, typically 2 to 4 km2 (0.77 to 1.54 sq mi) for females and up to 20 km2 (7.7 sq mi) for males.
Skunks are not true hibernators in the winter, but do den up for extended periods of time. However, they remain generally inactive and feed rarely, going through a dormant stage. Over winter, multiple females (as many as 12) huddle together; males often den alone. Often, the same winter den is repeatedly used.
Although they have excellent senses of smell and hearing, they have poor vision, being unable to see objects more than about 3 m (10 ft) away, making them vulnerable to death by road traffic. They are short-lived; their lifespan in the wild can reach seven years, with most living only up to a year. In captivity, they may live for up to 10 years.
Skunks mate in early spring and are polygynous, meaning that successful males mate with more than one female. Before giving birth (usually in May), the female excavates a den to house her litter of four to seven kits. They are placental, with a gestation period of about 66 days.
When born, skunk kits are blind, deaf, and covered in a soft layer of fur. About three weeks after birth, their eyes open. The kits are weaned about two months after birth, but generally stay with their mother until they are ready to mate, at about one year of age.
The mother is protective of her kits, spraying at any sign of danger. The male plays no part in raising the young.
Skunks are notorious for their anal scent glands, which they can use as a defensive weapon. They are similar to, though much more developed than, the glands found in species of the family Mustelidae. Skunks have two glands, one on each side of the anus. These glands produce the skunk's spray, which is a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals such as thiols (traditionally called mercaptans), which have an offensive odor. A skunk's spray is powerful enough to ward off bears and other potential attackers. Muscles located next to the scent glands allow them to spray with a high degree of accuracy, as far as 3 m (10 ft). The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness, and is sufficiently powerful to be detected by a human nose up to 5.6 km (3.5 miles) downwind. Their chemical defense is effective, as illustrated by this extract from Charles Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle:
We saw also a couple of Zorrillos, or skunks—odious animals, which are far from uncommon. In general appearance, the Zorrillo resembles a polecat, but it is rather larger and much thicker in proportion. Conscious of its power, it roams by day about the open plain, and fears neither dog nor man. If a dog is urged to the attack, its courage is instantly checked by a few drops of the fetid oil, which brings on violent sickness and running at the nose. Whatever is once polluted by it, is for ever useless. Azara says the smell can be perceived at a league distant; more than once, when entering the harbour of Monte Video, the wind being off shore, we have perceived the odour on board the Beagle. Certain it is, that every animal most willingly makes room for the Zorrillo.
Skunks are reluctant to use this weapon, as they carry just enough of the chemical for five or six uses – about 15 cc – and require some ten days to produce another supply. Their bold black and white coloration makes their appearance memorable. It is to a skunk's advantage to warn possible predators off without expending scent: black and white aposematic warning coloration aside, threatened skunks will go through an elaborate routine of hisses, foot-stamping, and tail-high deimatic or threat postures before resorting to spraying. Skunks usually do not spray other skunks, except among males in the mating season. If they fight over den space in autumn, they do so with teeth and claws.
Most predators of the Americas, such as wolves, foxes and badgers, seldom attack skunks, presumably out of fear of being sprayed. The exceptions are reckless predators whose attacks fail once they are sprayed, dogs, and the great horned owl, which is the skunk's only regular predator. In one case, the remains of 57 striped skunks were found in a single owl nest.
Skunks are common in suburban areas. Frequent encounters with dogs and other domestic animals, and the release of the odor when a skunk is run over, have led to many myths about the removal of skunk odor. Due to the chemical composition of the spray, most of these household remedies are ineffective. The Humane Society of the United States recommends treating dogs using a mixture of dilute hydrogen peroxide (3%), baking soda, and dishwashing liquid.
Skunk spray is composed mainly of three low-molecular-weight thiol compounds, (E)-2-butene-1-thiol, 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, and 2-quinolinemethanethiol, as well as acetate thioesters of these. These compounds are detectable by the human nose at concentrations of only 10 parts per billion.
It is rare for a healthy skunk to bite a human. While a tame skunk with its scent glands removed may defend itself by biting, there are few recorded incidents. The most prevalent cause of skunks biting humans is the rabies virus. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recorded 1,494 cases of rabies in skunks in the United States for the year 2006—about 21.5% of reported cases in all species. Skunks trail raccoons as vectors of rabies, although this varies regionally in the United States; raccoons dominate along the Atlantic coast and eastern Gulf of Mexico, skunks throughout the Midwest and down to the western Gulf, and in California.
Mephitis mephitis, the striped skunk, is the most social skunk and the one most commonly tamed. In the US, skunks can legally be kept as pets in seventeen states. When a skunk is kept as a pet, its scent glands are often surgically removed. In the UK, skunks can be kept as pets, but the Animal Welfare Act 2006 made it illegal to remove their scent glands.
In alphabetical order, the living species of skunks are:
The American hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus leuconotus) is a species of hog-nosed skunk from Central and North America, and is one of the largest skunks in the world, growing to lengths of up to 2.7 feet (82 cm). Recent work has concluded the western hog-nosed skunk (formerly Conepatus mesoleucus) is the same species, and Conepatus leuconotus is the correct name of the merged populations.In Texas, it is commonly known as the rooter skunk for its habit of rooting and overturning rocks and debris in search of food.Cannabis strains
Cannabis strains are either pure or hybrid varieties of the plant genus Cannabis, which encompasses the species C. sativa, C. indica and C. ruderalis.
Varieties are developed to intensify specific characteristics of the plant, or to differentiate the strain for the purposes of marketing or to make it more effective as a drug. Variety names are typically chosen by their growers, and often reflect properties of the plant such as taste, color, smell, or the origin of the variety. Cannabis strains commonly refer to those varieties with recreational and medicinal use. These varieties have been cultivated to contain a high percentage of cannabinoids. Several varieties of Cannabis, known as hemp, have a very low cannabinoid content, and are instead grown for their fiber and seed.Cribbage
Cribbage, or crib, is a card game traditionally for two players, but commonly played with three, four or more, that involves playing and grouping cards in combinations which gain points. Cribbage has several distinctive features: the cribbage board used for score-keeping, the eponymous crib, box, or kitty (in parts of Canada)—a separate hand counting for the dealer—two distinct scoring stages (the play and the show) and a unique scoring system including points for groups of cards that total fifteen. It has been characterized as "Britain's national card game" and the only one legally playable on licensed premises (pubs and clubs) without requiring local authority permission.Eastern spotted skunk
The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) is a small, relatively slender skunk found throughout the eastern United States and in small areas of Canada and Mexico.
This small skunk is more weasel-like in body shape than the more familiar striped skunk. The eastern spotted skunk has four stripes on its back which are broken in pattern, giving it a "spotted" appearance. They have a white spot on their forehead. They are found in Canada (southeast Manitoba and northwestern Ontario), the United States and northeastern Mexico. Males, at 46.3–68.8 cm (18.2–27.1 in) in total length, are large than females, at 35–54.4 cm (13.8–21.4 in). The tail accounts for roughly a third of their total length. Body mass can range from 0.2 to 1.8 kg (0.44 to 3.97 lb), with males averaging around 700 g (1.5 lb) against the female's average of 450 g (0.99 lb). Skull length is 43–55 mm (1.7–2.2 in). The Eastern spotted skunk is a very small skunk, which (for comparison sake) is no larger than a good-sized tree squirrel.They are much more active than any other type of skunk. They have mostly the same predators as any other skunk (big cats, bobcats, owls, humans, etc.). Up to eight skunks may share an underground den in the winter. They can also climb and take shelter in trees.Eastern spotted skunks seem to prefer forest edges and upland prairie grasslands, especially where rock outcrops and shrub clumps are present. In western counties, it relies heavily on riparian corridors where woody shrubs and woodland edges are present. Woody fencerows, odd areas, and abandoned farm buildings are also important habitat for Eastern Spotted Skunks.Hog-nosed skunk
The hog-nosed skunks belong to the genus Conepatus and are members of the family Mephitidae (skunks). They are native to the Americas. They have white backs and tails and black underparts.Hooded skunk
The hooded skunk (Mephitis macroura) is a species of mammal in the family Mephitidae. Mephītis in Latin means "foul odor", μακρός (makrós) in Greek translates to "long" and οὐρά (ourá) translates to "tail".Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk, also known as the Patagonian hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus humboldtii) is a type of hog-nosed skunk indigenous to the open grassy areas in the Patagonian regions of Argentina and Chile. It belongs to the order Carnivora and the family Mephitidae.Jeff Baxter
Jeffrey Allen "Skunk" Baxter (born December 13, 1948) is an American guitarist, known for his stints in the rock bands Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers during the 1970s and Spirit in the 1980s. More recently, he has worked as a defense consultant and chairs a Congressional Advisory Board on missile defense.Mephitidae
Mephitidae is a family of mammals comprising the skunks and stink badgers. They are noted for the great development of their anal scent glands, which they use to deter predators.
There are twelve extant species of mephitids in four genera: Conepatus (hog-nosed skunks, four species); Mephitis (the hooded and striped skunks, two species); Mydaus (stink badgers, two species); and Spilogale (spotted skunks, four species). The two stink badgers in the genus Mydaus inhabit Indonesia and the Philippines; the other members of the family inhabit the Americas, ranging from Canada to central South America. All other mephitids are extinct, known through fossils, including those from Eurasia.Skunks were formerly classified as a subfamily of the Mustelidae (the weasel family); however, recent genetic evidence has caused skunks to be treated as a separate family. Similarly, the stink badgers had been classified with badgers, but genetic evidence shows they share a more recent common ancestor with skunks, so they are now included in the skunk family. In alphabetical order, the living species of Mephitidae are:
Family Mephitidae (extant genera)
Conepatus chinga – Molina's hog-nosed skunk
Conepatus humboldtii – Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk
Conepatus leuconotus – American hog-nosed skunk
Conepatus semistriatus – striped hog-nosed skunk
Mephitis macroura – hooded skunk
Mephitis mephitis – striped skunk
Mydaus javanensis – Indonesian or Sunda stink badger (Teledu)
Mydaus marchei – Palawan stink badger
Spilogale angustifrons – southern spotted skunk
Spilogale gracilis – western spotted skunk
Spilogale putorius – eastern spotted skunk
Spilogale pygmaea – pygmy spotted skunkMolina's hog-nosed skunk
Molina’s hog-nosed skunk, Conepatus chinga, is similar to the common skunk with scent glands used to spray an odorous liquid to offend potential predators. They have a resistance to pit viper venom, distinct thin white markings and a pink, hog-like, fleshy nose.Skunk Anansie
Skunk Anansie are a British rock band whose members include Skin (lead vocals, guitar), Cass (bass, guitar, backing vocals), Ace (guitar, backing vocals) and Mark Richardson (drums and percussion).
Skunk Anansie formed on 12 February 1994, disbanded in 2001 and reformed in 2009. The name "Skunk Anansie" is taken from Akann folk tales of Anansi the spider-man of Ghana, with "Skunk" added to "make the name nastier".They have released six studio albums: Paranoid & Sunburnt (1995), Stoosh (1996), Post Orgasmic Chill (1999), Wonderlustre (2010), Black Traffic (2012) and Anarchytecture (2016); one compilation album, Smashes and Trashes (2009); and several hit singles, including "Charity", "Hedonism", "Selling Jesus" and "Weak".
They are often grouped as part of a Britrock movement, running alongside Britpop. The band, in 2004, was named as one of the most successful UK chart acts between 1952 and 2003 by the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums, with a total of 142 weeks on both the singles and album charts ranking them at No. 491. When the book first published this annual top 500 list in 2000, it only involved weeks spent on the singles chart until 2004's 17th edition.Skunk Works
Skunk Works is an official pseudonym for Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development Programs (ADP), formerly called Lockheed Advanced Development Projects. It is responsible for a number of aircraft designs, including the U-2, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which are used in the air forces of several countries. Its name was taken from the moonshine factory in the comic strip Li'l Abner. The designation "skunk works" or "skunkworks" is widely used in business, engineering, and technical fields to describe a group within an organization given a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, with the task of working on advanced or secret projects.Skunk ape
The skunk ape, also known as the swamp cabbage man, swamp ape, stink ape, Florida Bigfoot, Louisiana Bigfoot, myakka ape, swampsquatch, and myakka skunk ape, is a humanoid creature said to inhabit the U.S. states of Florida, North Carolina, and Arkansas, although reports from Florida are most common. It is named for its appearance and for the unpleasant odor that is said to accompany it.Southern spotted skunk
The southern spotted skunk (Spilogale angustifrons) is a species of mammal in the skunk family, (Mephitidae). It ranges from Costa Rica to southern Mexico. At one time this skunk was considered to be a subspecies of the eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale pusorius).Spotted skunk
The genus Spilogale includes all skunks commonly known as spotted skunks and is composed of four extant species: S. gracilis, S. putorius, S. pygmaea, S. angustifrons.Striped hog-nosed skunk
The striped hog-nosed skunk, Conepatus semistriatus, is a skunk species from Central and South America (from southern Mexico to northern Peru, and in the extreme east of Brazil). It lives in a wide range of habitats including dry forest scrub and occasionally, in rainforest.These white-backed skunks inhabit mainly the foothills and partly timbered or brushy sections of their general range. They usually avoid hot desert areas and heavy stands of timber. The largest populations occur in rocky, sparsely timbered areas.
It is a nocturnal solitary animal, feeding mainly on invertebrates, small vertebrates and fruits.Striped skunk
The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is a skunk of the genus Mephitis that is native to southern Canada, the United States and northern Mexico. It is currently listed as least concern by the IUCN on account of its wide range and ability to adapt to human-modified environments.It is a polygamous omnivore with few natural predators, save for birds of prey. The striped skunk has a long history of association with humans, having been trapped and captively bred for its fur and kept as an exotic pet. It is one of the most recognizable of North America's animals, and is a popular figure in cartoons and children's books.Western spotted skunk
The western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis) is a spotted skunk of western North AmericaWolverine
The wolverine () (also spelled wolverene), Gulo gulo (Gulo is Latin for "glutton"), also referred to as the glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae. It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids. A solitary animal, it has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times larger than itself.
The wolverine is found primarily in remote reaches of the Northern boreal forests and subarctic and alpine tundra of the Northern Hemisphere, with the greatest numbers in Northern Canada, the American state of Alaska, the mainland Nordic countries of Europe, and throughout western Russia and Siberia. Its population has steadily declined since the 19th century owing to trapping, range reduction and habitat fragmentation. The wolverine is now essentially absent from the southern end of its European range.
Extant Carnivora species