Eastern Spotted Skunk

Scientific Name
Spilogale putorius
Also Known As
Spotted Skunk
All of Florida Except Jacksonville Area
Insects, Small Mammals, Eggs, Fruit, Trash
Life Expectancy
1 - 3 Years
The Spotted Skunk

Photo 223046897 (c) Nick Sharp, CC BY-NC Modified

Eastern Spotted Skunk conservation status - Vulnerable

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Eastern Spotted Skunks in Central Florida

The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) is a small, omnivorous member of the skunk family Mephitidae. While similar in appearance to the more common striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), the eastern spotted skunk can be identified by its smaller size, different color pattern, and more prehensile forelimbs adapted for climbing and digging.

This article provides a detailed overview of eastern spotted skunk biology, behavior, habitat preferences, potential health hazards, and prevention strategies for central Florida residents who may encounter them.

Appearance and Identification

The Eastern Spotted Skunk can be identified by the following key physical characteristics at different life stages

Adult Spotted Skunk

Adult Spotted Skunk

  • Size: Adults reach up to 2 feet in total length and weigh between 1.5 to 4 pounds.
  • Fur: The fur is black with distinctive white spots and short white stripes along the back. The bushy tail has white tip hairs.
  • Head: Pointed, cone-shaped head with small rounded ears. Eyes are small and beady.
  • Legs/feet: Short, stocky legs with long claws used for digging up prey. 5 toes on each foot.
  • Scent glands: Eastern spotted skunks have two orange-colored scent glands used for defense.
Juvenile Spotted Skunk

Photo 91948390 © Alisa Marie, CC BY-NC

Juvenile Spotted Skunk

  • Size: Newborn eastern spotted skunk kits weigh around 25 grams and reach up to 7 inches in length at birth. They grow rapidly, reaching over 1 pound in weight by 6-8 weeks old.
  • Fur: The fur of juvenile eastern spotted skunks is short and gray in coloration. White spots and short stripes start developing by around 1 month old.
  • Features: Proportionally, kits have larger heads, feet and short, bushy tails compared to adults. The small claws are adapted for climbing and digging.

Adults are smaller than striped skunks and have more spots than stripes. The eastern spotted skunk’s climbing ability also helps distinguish it.

Maturation Rate

Eastern spotted skunk kits develop rapidly. They begin accompanying the mother on foraging trips at around 2 months old and are nearly full grown by 3 to 4 months of age. They reach reproductive maturity after their first winter, breeding by late February. Rapid maturation helps offset the spotted skunk’s high mortality rates.

Habits and Behavior

Eastern spotted skunks are polygynandrous, with males mating with multiple females. Though fairly solitary, their home ranges overlap with other skunks. They are nocturnal and sleep communally during the day in dens.

Eastern spotted skunks are more arboreal than striped skunks. They readily climb trees and logs but also forage on the ground. When threatened, they arch their back, hiss, stomp their feet, and raise their tail before spraying a pungent musk up to 10 feet towards the threat.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Breeding season occurs from late February through April in Florida. Females build nests in hollow logs, rock crevices, and burrows for birthing. Litters contain 2-5 kits born after a gestation of 45 to 70 days. Kits open their eyes by 3 to 4 weeks and are weaned around 2 months old.

Eastern spotted skunks are short-lived in the wild, with average lifespans of 1 to 3 years. Mortality is high among juveniles but adults have few predators aside from great horned owls due to their potent spray.