Striped Skunk

Scientific Name
Mephitis mephitis
Also Known As
Prairie Polecat, Musk Cat, Common Skunk
All of Florida
Insects, Eggs, Fruit, Small Mammals, Nuts
Life Expectancy
3 Years
The Striped Skunk
Striped Skunk conservation status - endangered

Quick Links

Striped Skunks in Central Florida

The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is a distinctive black and white furred mammal that inhabits regions of central Florida. Often considered pests, skunks are in fact an important part of local ecosystems. This guide covers skunk identification, biology, habitat, diet, health risks, and prevention and control in central Florida.

Appearance and Identification

Skunks have black fur with distinctive white stripes running down their back and sides. Their tails are long, bushy, and patterned with white. Skunks can be identified by

Adult Striped Skunk

Adult Striped Skunks

  • Size: Adults reach between 13 to 18 inches long including the tail. They weigh from 3 to 12 pounds.
  • Tail: Adult tails are bushy and 7 to 10 inches long on average.
  • Fur: Coarse black fur covers most of the body with a thick white stripe from head to tail. Face stripes vary individually.
  • Scent glands: Anal glands produce noxious spray as a defense. Glands are visible as two bumps.
  • Feet: Long claws adapted for digging insects and burrowing. Five toes on front and rear feet.
Juvenile Striped Skunk

Juvenile Striped Skunks

  • Size: Newborns are about 3.5 inches long and weigh around 1.1 ounces. They reach 7 to 8 inches long at 2 months old.
  • Fur: Juvenile skunks have similar black and white striped fur as adults, though may appear greyer.
  • Features: Proportionally larger head, feet and eyes compared to body size. Short claws useful for digging.

Skunks have a more streamlined body shape, with a bushy tail and white stripes on their back. Opossums have a more hunched over appearance, with a hairless tail and a pointed snout. Weasels are much smaller and have brown fur. Identifying tracks, dens, droppings and other signs also helps detect skunks.

Maturation Rate

Skunk kits grow rapidly after birth. Their eyes open after 3-4 weeks, they are weaned by 8 weeks, and reach adult size by 4 months old. Sexual maturity occurs by the following breeding season at just under one year old for both males and females.

Habits and Behavior

Skunks are omnivorous and prey on a variety of small animals, insects, grubs, and plants. They are primarily nocturnal and solitary creatures. During the day, skunks retreat to dens dug under sheds, porches or wood piles. Attics, hollow logs and abandoned burrows are also used for shelter.

Skunks have poor eyesight but excellent senses of hearing and smell. They shuffle slowly with a plodding gait and arch their tail high over the back when threatened. Skunks provide natural pest control by feeding on rodents and insects, but also damage lawns and gardens when foraging.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Breeding season for striped skunks in central Florida is typically February through March. After a 2 month gestation period, females give birth to 2 to 10 young. Babies are born blind, deaf and covered in fine hair in an underground den lined with dried grasses.

Young skunks open their eyes after 3 to 4 weeks and are weaned around 2 months old. They follow their mother single file and learn to hunt insects and small prey. Juveniles become independent by the fall but may den together over winter.

Skunks live up to 3 years in the wild. Main causes of mortality include motor vehicle collisions, disease, predators and starvation over harsh winters.