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.[2]

Spotted skunk
Spilogale gracilis
Western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mephitidae
Genus: Spilogale
Gray, 1865[1]

Spilogale gracilis Merriam, 1890
Spilogale putorius (Linnaeus, 1758)
Spilogale pygmaea Thomas, 1898
Spilogale angustifrons Howell, 1902

Spotted Skunk areas
Spotted skunk ranges

Extant species

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Spilogale gracilis amphiala Spilogale gracilis Merriam, 1890
Western spotted skunk western United States, northern Mexico, and southwestern British Columbia
Spilogale putorius Spilogale putorius (Linnaeus, 1758)
Eastern spotted skunk eastern United States and in small areas of Canada and Mexico
Spilogale pygmaea Thomas, 1898
Pygmy spotted skunk Pacific coast of Mexico
Spilogale angustifrons Howell, 1902 Southern spotted skunk Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize


Mammalogists consider S. gracilis and S. putorius different species because of differences in reproductive patterns, reproductive morphology, and chromosomal variation.[3] However, interbreeding has never been falsified.[3] The name Spilogale comes from the Greek word spilo, which means "spotted", and gale, which means "weasel". Putorius is the Latin word for "fetid odor". Gracilis is the Latin word for "slender". Several other names attributed to S. putorius include: civet cat, polecat, hydrophobian skunk, phoby skunk, phoby cat, tree skunk, weasel skunk, black marten, little spotted skunk, four-lined skunk, four-striped skunk, and sachet kitty.[4]

Distribution and habitat


The western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis) can be found west of the Continental Divide from southern British Columbia to Central America, as well as in some parts of Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and western Texas. Eastward, its range borders that of the eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius). Spilogale gracilis generally occupies lowland areas but they are sometimes found at higher elevations (2600 m). Although the western spotted skunk is now recognized as S. gracilis, previously, skunks west of the Cascade Crest in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon as a distinct subspecies (S. p. latifrons).[5]

Spilogale putorius is found throughout the central and southeastern United States, as well as, northeastern Mexico. In Mississippi, S. putorius is found throughout the whole state, except for the northwestern corner by the Mississippi river. In the Great Plains, there has been an observed increase in the geographical range of these skunks, and the cause of this is thought to be a result of an increase in agriculture. This would lead to an increase in mice, which happen to be one of the primary prey for S. putorius.[4]


Spilogale usually like to reside in covered thickets, woods, riparian hardwood, shrubbery, and areas that are located near streams. However, S. putorius usually enjoy staying in rocky and woody habitats that have copious amounts of vegetation. These sly creatures prefer to dwell in a den or natural cavities such as stumps or hollow logs. Although they have very effective digging claws, they prefer to occupy dens that are made by gophers, wood rats, pocket gophers, striped skunks, or armadillos.[5] They occupy dens that are positioned to be completely dark inside. Spilogale are very social creatures and frequently share dens with up to seven other skunks. Although skunks often live in this way, maternal dens are not open to non-maternal skunks.[4]



Around the time of March, the males’ testes begin to enlarge and are most massive by late September. The increase in size is accompanied by a larger testosterone production. Similarly, a female begins to experience an increase in ovarian activity in March. Spilogale begin to mate during March as well. Implantation occurs approximately 14–16 days after mating. For the western spotted skunk, most copulations occur in late September and the beginning of October.[6] Post copulation the zygotes are subject to normal cleavage but stop at the blastocyst stage, where they can remain in the uterus for roughly 6.5 months. After implantation, gestation last a 30 days and between April and June their offspring are born.[7] Although litter sizes vary considerably, the average litter size is about 5.5 and the gender ratio is 65 M: 35 F.[4]


The newborn skunks are covered with fine hair that shows the adult color pattern. The eyes open between 30 and 32 days.[8] The kits start solid food at about 42 days and are weaned at about two months.[4] They are full grown and reach adult size at about four months. The males do not help in raising the young.


Spotted skunks protect themselves by spraying a strong and unpleasant scent. Two glands on the sides of the anus release the odorous oil through nipples. When threatened, the skunk turns its body into a U-shape with the head and anus facing the attacker. Muscles around the nipples of the scent gland aim them, giving the skunk great accuracy on targets up to 15 feet away. As a warning before spraying, the skunk stamps its front feet, raises its tail, and hisses. They may warn with a unique "hand stand"—the back vertical and the tail waving.[3]

The liquid is secreted via paired anal subcutaneous glands that are connected to the body through striated muscles. The odorous solution is emitted as an atomized spray that is nearly invisible or as streams of larger droplets.[4]

Skunks store about 1 tablespoon (15 g) of the odorous oil and can quickly spray five times in row. It takes about one week to replenish the oil.

The secretion of the spotted skunks differs from that of the striped skunks. The two major thiols of the striped skunks, (E)-2-butene-1-thiol and 3-methyl-1-butanethiol are the major components in the secretion of the spotted skunks along with a third thiol, 2-phenylethanethiol.[9]

Thioacetate derivatives of the three thiols are present in the spray of the striped skunks but not the spotted skunks. They are not as odoriferous as the thiols. Water hydrolysis converts them to the more potent thiols. This chemical conversion may be why pets that have been sprayed by skunks will have a faint "skunky" odor on damp evenings.

Spotted skunks can spray up to roughly 10 feet.


Changing the thiols into compounds that have little or no odor can be done by oxidizing the thiols to sulfonic acids. Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) are mild enough to be used on people and animals but changes hair color.

Stronger oxidizing agents, like sodium hypochlorite solutions—liquid laundry bleach—are cheap and effective for deodorizing other materials.


Skunks are omnivorous and will eat small rodents, fruits, berries, birds, eggs, insects and larvae, lizards, snakes, and carrion. Their diet may vary with the seasons as food availability fluctuates.[4] They have a keen sense of smell that helps them find grubs and other food. Their hearing is acute but they have poor vision.

Life expectancy

Spotted skunks can live 10 years in captivity, but in the wild, about half the skunks die after 1 or 2 years.


The eastern spotted skunk, S. putorius, is not very much of a conservation concern. Management is hampered by an overall lack of information from surveying.[10] During the 1940s, Spilogale populations seemingly crashed and the species is currently listed by various state agencies as endangered, threatened, or ‘of concern’ across much of its range.[11] The species S. pygmaea is endemic to the Mexican Pacific coast and is currently threatened.[12] The tropical dry forest of western Mexico, where these skunks live, is a highly threatened ecosystem that has been placed on conservation priority. S. pygmaea is also the smallest omnivore native to Mexico as well as one of the smallest worldwide.


  1. ^ Gray, J. E. (1865). "Revision of the genera and species of Mustelidae contained in the British Museum". Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 1865: 150.
  2. ^ Kinlaw, A (1995). "Spilogale putorius". Mammalian Species. 511: 1–7.
  3. ^ a b c Kaplan, Joyce (November 1994). "Seasonal Changes in Testicular Function and Seminal Characteristics of the Male Eastern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius ambarvilus)". Journal of Mammalogy. 4 (75): 1013–1020. doi:10.2307/1382484. JSTOR 1382484.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Bullock, Lindsay (December 2008). "Mammals of Mississippi". Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
  5. ^ a b Verts, B.J.; Carraway, Leslie N.; Kinlaw, Al (June 2001). "Spilogale gracilis". Mammalian Species. 674: 1–10. doi:10.1644/1545-1410(2001)674<0001:SG>2.0.CO;2.
  6. ^ Kaplan, J.B.; Mead, R. A. (July 1993). "2010 Influence of season on semanal characteristics, testis size and serum testosterone in the western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis)". Reproduction. 98 (2): 321–326. doi:10.1530/jrf.0.0980321.
  7. ^ Feldhamer, George (2015). Mammalogy Adaptation Diversity Ecology. 2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218-4363: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-1-4214-1588-8.
  8. ^ "Eastern Spotted Skunk". The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition.
  9. ^ Wood, William; Morgan, Christopher G.; Miller, Alison (1991). "Volatile components in defensive spray of the spotted skunk,Spilogale putorius". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 17 (7): 1415–1420. doi:10.1007/BF00983773. PMID 24257801.
  10. ^ Hackett, H.; et al. (2007). "Detection Rats of Eastern Spotted Skunks (Spilogale Putorius) in Missouri and Arkansas Using Live-capture and Non-invasive Techniques". The American Midland Naturalist. 158 (1): 123–131. doi:10.1674/0003-0031(2007)158[123:DROESS]2.0.CO;2.
  11. ^ Gompper, Matthew; Hackett, H. Mundy (May 2005). "The long-term, range-wide decline of a once common carnivore: the eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius)". Animal Conservation. 8 (2): 195–201. CiteSeerX doi:10.1017/S1367943005001964.
  12. ^ Cantu ́-Salazar, Lisette; Hidalgo-Mihart, Mircea G.; López-González, Carlos A.; González-Romero, Alberto (November 2005). "Diet and food resource use by the pygmy skunk (Spilogale pygmaea) in the tropical dry forest of Chamela, Mexico". Journal of Zoology. 267 (3): 283–289. doi:10.1017/S0952836905007417.

External links

American hog-nosed skunk

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.

Channel Islands spotted skunk

The Channel Island spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis amphiala) is an insular endemic carnivore and a subspecies of the western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis). Little is known about their exact variations from the mainland spotted skunk and variations between locations, resolution of which awaits further genetic and morphologic evaluation. The skunk is only currently found on two islands off the southern coast of California (Santa Cruz Island, and Santa Rosa Island, where its occurrence was once thought to be rare but recently experienced a population surge in the 1990s). Its presence has been recorded on San Miguel Island, but it has since been declared extinct in that area. The Channel Island skunk is one of two terrestrial carnivores on the islands, the other being the island fox. It is designated as a species of special concern by the state of California.

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.


Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.


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

Genus: Conepatus

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

Genus: Mephitis

Mephitis macroura – hooded skunk

Mephitis mephitis – striped skunk

Genus: Mydaus

Mydaus javanensis – Indonesian or Sunda stink badger (Teledu)

Mydaus marchei – Palawan stink badger

Genus: Spilogale

Spilogale angustifrons – southern spotted skunk

Spilogale gracilis – western spotted skunk

Spilogale putorius – eastern spotted skunk

Spilogale pygmaea – pygmy spotted skunk

Mephitis (genus)

The genus Mephitis is one of several genera of skunks, which has two species and a North American distribution.

Molina'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.

Palawan stink badger

The Palawan stink badger (Mydaus marchei), or pantot, is a carnivoran of the western Philippines named for its resemblance to badgers, its powerful smell, and the largest island to which it is native, Palawan. Like all stink badgers, the Palawan stink badger was once thought to share a more recent common ancestor with badgers than with skunks. Recent genetic evidence, however, has led to their re-classification as one of the Mephitidae, the skunk family of mammals. It is the size of a large skunk or small badger, and uses its badger-like body to dig by night for invertebrates in open areas near patches of brush. While it lacks the whitish dorsal patches typical of its closest relatives, predators and hunters generally avoid the powerful noxious chemicals it can spray from the specialized anal glands characteristic of mephitids.


Paradoxurus is a genus within the viverrid family that was denominated and first described by Frédéric Cuvier in 1822. As of 2005, this genus was defined as comprising three species native to Southeast Asia:

the Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)

the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)

the brown palm civet (P. jerdoni)In 2009, it was proposed to also include the golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus), the Sri Lankan brown palm civet (P. montanus) and the golden dry-zone palm civet (P. stenocephalus), which are endemic to Sri Lanka.

Pygmy spotted skunk

The pygmy spotted skunk (Spilogale pygmaea) is a species of mammal in the family Mephitidae. It is endemic to Mexico.


Skunks are North and South American mammals in the family Mephitidae. While related to polecats and other members of the weasel family, the closest Old World relatives of skunks are 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.

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).

Stink badger

Stink badgers (Mydaus) are a genus of the skunk family of carnivorans, the Mephitidae. They resemble the better know members of family Mustelidae also termed 'badgers' (which are themselves a polyphyletic group). There are only two extant species - the Palawan stink badger (M. marchei), and the Sunda stink badger or Teledu (M. javanensis). They live only on western islands of the Malay Archipelago: Sumatra, Java, Borneo and (in the case of the Palawan stink badger) on the Philippine island of Palawan; as well as many other, smaller islands in the region.

Stink badgers are named for their resemblance to other badgers and for the foul-smelling secretions that they expel from anal glands in self-defense (which is stronger in the Sunda species).Stink badgers were traditionally thought to be related to Eurasian badgers in the subfamily Melinae of the weasel family of carnivorans (the Mustelidae), but recent DNA analysis indicates they share a more recent common ancestor with skunks, so experts have now placed them in the skunk family (the Mephitidae, which is the sister group of a clade composed of Mustelidae and Procyonidae, with the red panda also assigned to one of the sister clades). The two existing species are different enough from each other for the Palawan stink badger to be sometimes classified in its own genus, Suillotaxus.

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.

Sunda stink badger

The Sunda stink badger (Mydaus javanensis), also called the Javan stink badger, teledu, Malay stink badger, Malay badger, Indonesian stink badger and Sunda skunk, is a mammal native to Indonesia and Malaysia. Despite the common name, stink badgers are not closely related to true badgers, and are, instead, Old World relatives of the skunks.

Western spotted skunk

The western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis) is a spotted skunk of western North America

Extant species of family Mephitidae
Extant Carnivora species

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.