Thursday, January 5, 2006


Not a week goes by that I don't smell a skunk around our house. Who woulda thunk there'd be so many skunks in LA? Mr. Octopus even saw one running along our driveway. The horror! What is a skunk anyway? Some sort of rodent? Let's consult Wiki.

Skunks are mammals. There are 11 species of skunks, two of which live in Indonesia and the Philippines and remaining nine in the Americas. Although most commonly black and white, skunks also come in brown, gray or cream. They all have stipes though.

Skunks are omnivorous, although they mostly eat meat. They eat everything from plants and insects to rodents, lizards, snakes and eggs. In urban areas, they eat a lot of garbage. Skunks are nocturnal and have very good senses of smell and hearing. However, they have very bad eyesight, which is part of the reason why they often end up as roadkill.

And oh the smell. Skunkies have two glands, on either side of the anus, and can spray with high accuracy up to 10 feet away. Most predators in the U.S. (wolves, badgers, foxes) are afraid of getting sprayed, except for the Great Horned Owl (how scary would it be to see an owl carry away a skunk). Skunks can run out of their stink, so they spray very sparingly. From Wiki:

Because skunks have only enough scent for 5 or 6 "reloads" —about 1 tablespoon (15 grams)—and take a couple of days to refill their scent glands, they are reluctant to expend their "ammunition". This is presumably why skunks have such bold black and white colouring: to ensure they are as visible and as memorable as possible. Where practical, it is to a skunk's advantage to simply warn a threatening creature off without expending scent: the black and white warning colour aside, threatened skunks will go through an elaborate routine of hisses and foot stamping and tail-high threat postures before expelling a shower of scent.
What a fascinating creature!

1 comment:

ivanomartin said...

In our parking lot, we used to have a skunk and a couple of stray cats. Jennifer would always be leaving food and water for the cats, but we'd often come home to find the skunk nicking it......I always rooted for the skunk.