Interesting Skunk Facts

The one thing that people associate with skunks is the intense and distasteful odor that they emit, but there are numerous skunk facts that may give them greater understanding and perhaps lower their fear of this animal.

The skunk is a mammal that can be found in most of the states of the US.  It is true that skunks have the ability to create the most abominable odor that has ever been the displeasure of any individual to smell; however, this fact is the worst feature the poor creature has going against it.  Unobtrusive and shy, the skunk has many endearing qualities as well.  If more people were to learn other facts about the skunk than its smell, they just might decide that sharing space with this striped animal is not such a bad idea.

Facts about the skunk

  • The diet of skunks is one of an omnivore.  Some of their favorite foods are the worst outdoor enemies of humans:  insects.  Crickets, grasshoppers, beetles and small rodents that prove to be destructive and annoying pests in our gardens and yards are tasty morsels to the skunk.  Having a skunk in the nearby vicinity will have the result of lowering the insect population now and in the future, as they like to eat insect larvae as well.  They also enjoy plant life, berries, vegetables and snails.

  • Skunks are night prowlers.  This nocturnal habit for the most part keeps distance between skunks and humans; limiting their interaction opportunities.  Most of the encounters with skunks occur on roadways.  In fact, one of the most surprising skunk facts is that many people live within a close vicinity of these animals and would never know it unless the smell precedes them. 

  • Homes for the skunk include burrows dug into the ground, hollow logs, beneath buildings, within piles of vegetation and wood piles. 

  • There are four main types of skunks living in the United States.  The spotted skunk, the hooded skunk, the hog nosed skunk and the spotted skunk are the most commonly found.  Of these, the spotted and the striped skunks have the widest range. 

  • Largely non aggressive, skunks do their best to keep peace in the neighborhood. Solitary animals, they are content to scavenge for food rather than socializing with other animals.  They will, however, rob from the food stores of other animals when the opportunity arises.

  • Despite their effective odorous defense mechanism, the skunk does have its predators.  Great horned owls, coyotes and dogs all serve to keep the skunk population in check; usually striking at the youngest of them. 

  • While the most recognizable skunk is the jet black fur with telltale white stripe, not all skunks are black.  There are brown, gray and cream colored skunks as well.  The stripe is a universal trademark, however, appearing from birth on all skunks regardless of coloration.  

  • Skunk spray is an oily substance with a sulfur base.  The horrid smell is the product of mercaptans, an organic compound contained within the spray.  Though everyone knows that the spray is useful for skunks in defending themselves, few people are aware that humans benefit from the smell as well.  Scientists have found that adding mercaptans to odor free natural gas serves to assist in detecting leaks from furnaces and stoves. 

  • Though they have a negative connation with many individuals, skunks do make great pets.  Domesticated skunks with their scent glands removed can be trained much as a cat. 

Hopefully, these interesting skunk facts serve to provide greater understanding of this creature and lessen the fear and dread felt when a skunk encounter is made.  Though a respectable distance should always be maintained, humans and skunks can live harmoniously in the same neighborhoods with no problem.