Skunks

There are four different kinds of skunks in Colorado.

The classic white stripped skunk is best known for his ability to spray noxious smelling musk as a form of self defense. The spotted skunks are much smaller and will spray much faster than the striped and more weasel like. The spotted skunks is contrast have a series of broad white stripes the the head to the base of the tails that are broken up in spots, whith white spots between their eyes. While they are all in the same family (Mephitidae) the spotted skunks are classificed in the Spilgale genues as seen below. The Spotted skunks are considered rare and are on the Colorado’s restricted list meaning they are elligable for relocation.

Stripped Skunk Mammal Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Mephitidae
Genus: Mephitis
Species: Mephitis mephitis

Western Spotted Skunk Mammal Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Mephitidae
Genus: Spilogale
Species: Spilogale gracilis

Eastern Spotted Skunks
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Mephitidae
Genus: Spilogale
Species: Spilogale putorius

BIOLOGY
The striped skunk is a large, long bushy tail with a case color if black with two white dorsal stripes that start as one at the nose. This strip splits at the neck and continue down the two dorsal sides. The legs ears are small and rounded, legs are short and the body is stout. They weigh between 4 to 10 lbs with the females being 15% smaller.

Skunks in Colorado occur in most landscape types except the Alpine Tundra. They are opportunistic omnivorous and eat beetles, grasshoppers, and other insects as their main stay , supplemented by voles, mice, ground nesting birds and their eggs and vegetation such as berries, fruit grains and vegetables.

Foraging begins in the early evening at dusk and continues all night. These animals search primarily by smell as is evident by their nose to the ground searching methods. Skunks are primarily nocturnal but it is not uncommon to see them out during the daytime. Seeing skunks during the daytime is not necessarily a sign of sickness.

BEHAVIOR:
Dens usually have once entrance on the slope side of the ground, under protected porches, under the accessible corner of a house of structure such as a shed and their long claws are designed for digging. During winter skunks will semi-hibernate or become inactive for weeks at a time up to several months.

Mating season occurs in February and March; males increase their activity during this time. The males are polygamous and may form a harem during mating season. A litter of 5 to 8 young born in May to early June depending on the mating time. The females can start breeding at the age of 10 months old and litter gender ratio is 1:1.

The young are born with pigmentation of the skin that indicates the color pattern of the hair to grow in. Eyes and ears are open at 3 weeks musk glands are able to scent at 1 week and teeth erupt at 1 month and the mother weans at 8 weeks old. The young stay with the adult female up to 4 months. Mortality in juveniles is 50- 70% and most do not live past three years of age.

PREDATORS:
Great horned owl, eagle, mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, coyotes, foxes, humans.

DISEASES: In a state of Colorado it is illegal to relocate Skunks.

Rabies — is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

Colorado Center for Disease Control
Colorado Zoonosis
Rabies Control Website

Distemper — an infectious viral disease characterized by loss of appetite, a catarrhal discharge from the eyes and nose, vomiting, diarrhea leading to dehydration, fever, lethargy, partial paralysis caused by destruction of myelinated nerve tissue, and sometimes death.

Click here to read more.

NUISANCE CONCERNS:

  • Odor
  • Living under decks, shed, porches
  • May discharge scent to mark territory
  • Pet/skunk conflicts
  • Skunk falling down basement window wells
  • Damage to lays as the forage and grub (roll back and tear up sod)

REMOVAL:
Capture and euthanization. It is best to leave this to a professional to reduce the chances of being sprayed.

EXCLUSION AND DAMAGE RESTORATION:
Once the animal has been removed, exclusion of the area can take many forms. Sometimes filling in the area with cement or dense material will be a deterrent to any other pioneering animals, sometime blocking off the decks area with the appropriate screening while burying it deep enough the discourage dig under is required. Each situation requires individual evaluation.

ODOR REMOVAL RECIPE:
Mix the following:

  • 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap or dish detergent
  • Mix these together
  • Clean while scrubbing or rubbing down, the bubbling action is the key to success
  • Be sure to use this mixture immediately after it is mixed and most effective, do not store it
  • Rinse with tap water afterward, and repeat if necessary
  • For spray in the eyes, flush with water as soon as possible