How to Identify a Skunk Living on Your Property
There are several ways to identify the presence of a skunk on your property. The most obvious way to identify a skunk is seeing it. Skunks are generally 20-32 inches long with short legs and an unusual gait. They are known for their bushy tails and black and white stripes although species differ in their markings. Here are a few other ways skunks make their presence known.
Skunks leave distinct tracks in dirt, mud, and snow. Skunks have five toes on each foot and claws that extend from each toe. The claws make deep tracks on the fore feet and differentiate skunk tracks from that of the common house cat, which can retract their claws. The hind foot leaves the mark of a heel pad that is usually between two and two-and-a-half inches.
Skunk feces typically measures around half an inch in diameter and between one and two inches in length. Often compared to cat feces, skunk droppings can take on slightly different colors and shapes depending on the weather, the contents of their meals, and the length of time from the initial deposit. Skunk feces generally contains bits of undigested insects, berry seeds, fur, or feathers. Skunk feces can appear similar to raccoon feces but is typically smaller.
Skunks use their digging ability to build tunnels, dens, and forage for food on residential and commercial property. Their burrows are often found under buildings, sheds, decks, and even concrete foundations. Dens and tunnels built by skunks are marked by freshly excavated dirt and a strong odor. Holes dug by skunks for food are shallower and just a couple of inches in diameter.
Skunks are infamous for their pungent spray -- an oil stored in their anal glands that can be sprayed up to 12 feet. Skunk spray includes chemicals known as thiols, which are compounds that contain sulfur. These chemical compounds give the liquid its musky stench, which can be smelled up to a mile away in certain conditions. Skunks typically use their spray as a last defense against predators. While the spray is rarely permanently harmful, it is extremely difficult to remove and can cause irritation to the skin and olfactory senses. Skunk spray can even cause temporary vision loss.
Skunks are generally quiet, but they do growl, squeal, hiss, and stomp. Skunks typically use these sounds to signal distress. A pregnant skunk will use these sounds to warn approaching males. Homeowners might hear the tapping or scratching of skunk claws at night because the animals are nocturnal.
Types of Skunks
There are several types of skunks commonly found throughout the United States, including the striped skunk, spotted skunk, hog-nosed skunk, and hooded skunk. They all have slightly different appearances and habits but also share many characteristics. Here’s a breakdown of the most common skunks in North America.
Striped skunks are found throughout the United States with an exception of a few areas in Utah and Nevada.
They typically grow 32 inches in length and weigh approximately 14 pounds, similar in size to a typical house cat. The striped skunk is easily recognized due to its black fur and prominent white markings. The average adult skunk has one stripe running from the tip of their snout to the crest of their forehead, as well as a stripe that runs down the length of their back. Other prominent features include bushy tails, triangle-shaped heads, small ears, and black eyes.
Spotted skunks are smaller and more agile than striped skunks. They grow between one and two feet in length and weigh around one-and-a-half pounds. Spotted skunks have black fur with erratic white striping and feature a white spot on their forehead. These skunks are commonly found near forests, where they make use of their squirrel-like climbing ability.
The eastern spotted skunk ranges across the Great Plains to Texas and Florida then up the Appalachians. The western spotted skunk is in west Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, eastern Washington, most of Idaho, western Wyoming, and southeast Montana.
Hog-nosed skunks are larger than other North American skunk species, growing to about three feet in length. They also feature short, white tails, a single white stripe on their backs, and a wide nose absent of fur. Hog-nosed skunks are commonly found in the Southwest including New Mexico, Arizona, and southeastern Texas.
Hooded skunks are smaller and leaner than other skunk species and typically only weigh five pounds. They have triangularly shaped heads, sharp teeth, small ears, and their tails are longer than their bodies. Hooded skunks tend to bear one of three distinct colorations: white-backed, black-backed, or all black. They are found primarily in the southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Texas.
If you suspect you have a skunk on your residential or commercial property, contact Critter Control as soon as possible.