Sunday, June 03, 2012

Wild Things: skunk

I smell a polecat!  There's probably no doubt that if you've ever experienced the foul, putrid secretions of the skunk - you won't forget it.  But there's more to this animal than just the strong odor, so let's find out about skunks.

Skunks can range in size from 15-37 inches and about one to 18 pounds. They have a long body, short legs and powerful front claws for digging.  They eat plants and animals, and are able to change their diet as needed.  Mostly they look for insects, grubs, eggs or lizards.  But they also eat birds, snakes, moles and frogs.  Skunks can make a feast out of berries, roots, leaves, grass and nuts.

Skunk are regular raiders of the honeybee hive.  They count on their thick fur to protect them from stings. A skunk will scratch on the opening to the bee hive and eat the guard bees that come out.  This behaviour is passed along to young skunks from their parents.

Sometimes all you'll ever know of Mr. Skunk is the holes in your flower bed where he's been looking for grubs.  Occasionally, they might locate a food bowl you left out for your pet.  Skunks have been known to scavenge a garbage can for food.

Skunks like to hole up during the day in burrows they dig out.  Most skunks are solitary and do not hunt together or share dens.  They have excellent hearing and sense of smell - although they have horrible eyesight (with a range of 10ft) which makes hunting at night ideal for Mr. Skunk.

So, what's going on at the stinky end of skunk?  His best defense is a foul liquid that's expelled from his butt with great accuracy.  This stuff is so powerful he can defeat a bear with it!  Humans can smell skunk spray for up to a mile away.  The skunk doesn't waste his spray, because he has a limited supply - rather he postures, and hisses and makes you think he will spray. 

Last week I was sitting on my porch at sunset and a small black/white skunk was sniffing his way onto my driveway.   I knew he couldn't see me, so I yelled "HEY"  then I ran in the house and grabbed my camera.  When I came back out I was sure to make alot of noise, and finally took a quick photo before running inside.

skunk in yard

WILD THINGS is a series on Edge of the Wildwood about wildlife. 
Visit again for our next animal profile:  bat

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