There are two different types of skunks: striped skunk and spotted skunk. The striped variety is the one we most commonly see in Maryland, while the spotted skunk is rather secretive and takes great care not to get spotted by people or predators. Since striped skunks are the ones that are the most likely to cause trouble, we’ll be discussing them in more detail.
Habitat and Habits
The striped skunk is common in Maryland, as well as throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Striped skunks can be found in woods, fields, agricultural lands, as well as in suburban communities. Skunks are omnivorous, which means they are not picky eaters. They will eat anything from insects to worms, snails, grubs, small rodents, snakes and bird eggs. Skunks also consume berries, grains, nuts and corn, as well as dead animal carcases. Similar to raccoons, they are happy with human food leftovers and would scavenge through trash when given a chance.
The striped skunk is most active at night—that’s when they’ll come out to dig through your yard for worms and grubs. They need all this food to develop enough fat for cold winters when they might have to stay in their dens for days, and sometimes weeks at a time. Speaking of dens, they don’t mind inviting themselves to other animals’ dens (like groundhog’s) while the host animal is still in there.
Mating and Reproduction
Striped skunks mate from February to April. Females are pregnant for 55 to 77 days and give birth to 3 to 10 young. However, the average number of young they have is 5 or 6. The newborn skunks are blind and pink with some fur and faint black-and-white markings. At 21 to 28 days old, their eyes open and they are capable of spraying a horrific odor from their anal scent glands. They are weaned at 42 to 56 days old when they begin to venture out of the den with their mother in search of food. At 2 ½ months old the young take off on their own. Both the young males and females will reach sexual maturity and mate during the next spring.
The Skunk Smell
The first sign of an invasive skunk problem you may notice is a horrific musky smell. All skunks are equipped with scent glands that are located on both sides of their anus. These scent glands produce an oily secretion that contains sulfur compounds that smell like rotten eggs. Skunks use this secretion as a weapon to protect themselves against predators. In an attempt to ward off predators, skunks will typically hiss, stamp their front feet, lower their front body and raise their hind end and tail in the air before spraying. This spray will saturate materials and soil causing it to linger for a long time.
The smell is usually a good giveaway of a skunk problem. Contact us if you suspect there could be skunks or other critters living on your property.