Mephitis mephitis
(Striped Skunk)

Order: Carnivora
Order Description: Carnivores
Family: Mustelidae
Family Description: Weasels, Skunks and Others

The fur of the striped skunk is coal black with a white stripe from its forehead down to its nose. A broad white stripe beginning at the base of its head forms a "V" down the sides of its back and terminates near the tail. Its bushy tail is variously white. Males are considerably larger than females. A striped skunk is about the size of a domestic cat. Total length is 21 to 30 inches (520-770 mm), tail length is 6.8 to 14 inches (170-350 mm), weight is 4 to 9 pounds (1.8-4 kg).

The striped skunk is more common throughout its range than the spotted skunk. It ranges from central Canada down through the United State to northern Mexico.

Striped skunks are found in a variety of habitat wherever there is adequate food and shelter. But, it prefers semi-open country with interspersed woodlands and meadows, brushy areas, and bottomland woods. It is frequently found in suburban areas. In Idaho, it prefers marshes, farmlands, and riparianClick word for definition areas in dry country. It usually is not found in dense forests nor in extremely dry areas.

Their omnivorousClick word for definition diet includes a variety of plant and animal foods such as insects, small mammals, eggs, carrionClick word for definition, fruits, etc. Half of summer diet is insects including grasshoppers, beetles and moth larvae. They sometimes eat domestic poultry and fruit in orchards. They are known to prey on bees and have been observed actually scratching on beehives and capturing bees as they leave the hive.

Striped skunks are mostly crepuscularClick word for definition or nocturnalClick word for definition, but are sometimes active during daytime. They may be dormant during extended periods of cold, snowy weather; but they do not hibernateClick word for definition. Several individuals, mainly females, may share a winter den. Males seem to be more active in winter. When inactive, they occupy dens under rocks, logs, or buildings; they may excavate burrows or use burrows abandoned by other mammals. Their dens are usually somewhat close to water, but always on a dry site. Home range is variable, from 0.5 to 1.5 square miles (1.3-6.5 square km); males tend to wander more than females. Population densityClick word for definition may fluctuate greatly, occasionally reaching high densities. The species is preyed on by humans, canids, felids, mustelids and raptors. This species, like the spotted skunk, is a rabiesClick word for definition vectorClick word for definition. When rabid, a skunk is often out and about during the day, and unusually aggressive. If a skunk such as this is encountered, it should be avoided for obvious reasons.

Breeding occurs in mid-February through late March, with the peak occurring in mid-February. One researcher reported a pregnancy rate of 78-96%. Delayed implantationClick word for definition occurs as in all "weasels", total GestationClick word for definition lasts 62-68 days. litterClick word for definition size varies from 2 to 10 young (average 6-8), and they are born in late April to early June. Females produce 1 litter per year. Young are weanedClick word for definition and begin to follow their mother at 6 to 7 weeks; some young are independent by fall. Individuals reach sexual maturity in their first spring.

Status: Predatory wildlife
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Information written by Donald Streubel,© 2000
Map image provided by
Stephen Burton,© 2000
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.