Body Length: 8-14 inches
Tail Length: 5-9 inches
Description: Black & White Pattern, having a head covered in white spots and a body covered with several stripes or spots. The tail is bushy and black with a white tip.
Preferred Habitat: Forests, Prairies, Dense Shrubbery, Rocky areas, Anywhere Close to a Source of Water.
The Western Spotted Skunk is one of four species of Spotted Skunks: The Western Spotted Skunk, the Eastern Spotted Skunk, the Pygmy Spotted Skunk, and the Southern Spotted Skunk. It is the Western Spotted Skunk that makes his home in Utah, and he can be found by a diligent wildlife observer in both Zion as well as Bryce Canyon National Park.
Like all skunks, the Spotted Skunk is famous, or perhaps infamous, for his horrific odor, which is used at will as a means of warding off potential dangers. The Spotted Skunk in particular is known for his pre-spray warning, which is a rather impressive handstand. Not only does the Spotted Skunk’s handstand serve as a warning; but even more importantly, the handstand allows him to direct his scent glands exactly towards the threat. In addition to the signature handstand, the Spotted Skunk may also hiss, raise his tail and stamp his front feet. It is a good thing that he gives us this warning, and if you should see any of these signs you had better take heed because the spray of the Spotted Skunk is even more pungent than that of the larger Striped Skunk! It is also in the Skunk’s best interest that he gives a warning because he only stores about one Tablespoon of the pungent oil inside his body. In one sense, this tablespoon is plenty since it allows him up to five sprays in a row and he is incredibly accurate up to a distance of 15 feet. However, if he were to use up all five of his sprays at once, it would take him a full week to fully replenish his much-needed (you might even say “essential”) oils. The Spotted Skunk is a small animal in a dangerous world, so he must give at least some concern towards conserving his ammunition!
If you or, more likely, your dog find yourself sprayed by a skunk there are a few solutions to your dilemma. While tomato juice will not do anything at all to neutralize skunk odor, here is a list of things that certainly will:
The Spotted Skunk, like the Striped Skunk, is omnivorous. However, the Spotted Skunk makes more liberal use of meat in his diet than his larger cousin does. Among the Spotted Skunk’s favorite delicacies are such small mammals as mice and rats. The diet, as you might expect, varies with the seasons and climate. Typically, the Spotted Skunk will eat more insects in Spring and Summer, more fruits in the Fall, and more meat in the winter when insects and vegetation are scarce. Since they have rather poor eyesight, their primary aids in finding food are their keen senses of smell and their hearing.
Found all throughout Utah as well as all the Western States, the Spotted Skunk makes his home in a wide variety of habitats. It seems that the most important thing to the Spotted Skunk is that he is somewhat close to water, preferring a stream or brook to a large lake. The Spotted Skunk makes use of dens that were created by other burrowing animals and may sometimes den up with several of his own species. The den of a Spotted Skunk is usually one that is not totally dark on the inside- the Spotted Skunk likes to have at least a little bit of sunshine in his home!
Breeding season for the Spotted Skunk is usually late September through early October. After a 6 ½ month gestation period, the Spotted Skunk gives birth to a litter sometime from April through June. The litter average for the Spotted Skunk is 5 ½ young, with two thirds being males. Each baby Spotted Skunk will already have a color pattern similar to the adult. For the first month of his life, his eyes will be closed and he will spend a great deal of time nursing. Only a few days after he opens his eyes, the baby Spotted Skunk, called a “Kit” will begin to eat solids. At about two months of age, he will be totally weaned and by the time he is four months old, the Spotted Skunk will be fully grown. If kept in captivity, a Spotted Skunk will often live up to ten years; but in the wild, they rarely live to be even half that old. About half are killed by one predator or another before they are even 2 years old.
Here at Rising K Ranch, there are certainly several Spotted Skunks around. However, because they are nocturnal we seldom see them on any of our horseback rides. The skunks are especially drawn to Rising K Ranch because we have several free-ranging chickens. The skunks, if it were not for the dogs we have here, would often eat both the chickens and their eggs. As it is, they only rarely make off with an egg or two and nobody minds it too much at all. Spotted Skunks do not hibernate; but they are exceedingly less active whenever the weather becomes either hot as it does for a week or two in July or cold as it often does for several weeks in December-March. With that in mind, the Spotted Skunk will be easier to find in the summer in Bryce Canyon National Park where the elevation is 8,000 feet, in the winter in Zion National Park, where the elevation is 3,000 feet, and almost year ‘round here at Rising K Ranch which is just between Zion and Bryce Canyon and our elevation is 6,000 feet.