Striped Skunk—Mephitis mephitis

Skunks are members of the weasel family; the most common is the striped skunk. They are omnivores, eating insects, small mammals and birds, crustaceans, fruits, grasses, leaves, buds, grains, nuts, and carrion. Insects make up approximately 70% of their diet.

Skunks become pests when their burrowing and feeding habits conflict with humans. They burrow under porches or buildings; they disturb garbage left outdoors; they damage beehives by attempting to feed on bees; they occasionally feed on corn; and, of course, they often leave behind a distinct odor. They are valuable, however, in helping to control insect and rodent populations.

The striped skunk is characterized by prominent, lateral white stripes that run down its back. Its fur is otherwise jet black. The striped skunk is about the size of an ordinary house cat, up to 29 inches long and weighing about 8 pounds.

skunk in snow
They are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and emerging at dusk to look for food.

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[Photos: Alfred Viola, Northeastern University,]