Living with Wildlife: Striped Skunks

The striped skunk is a mammal that can be found living near humans and human development. Striped skunks like forest edges, woodlands, and grasslands, but are adaptable to live in or under buildings as well.  If you live in an area where there are food opportunities or fields, forests, and water sources, then you may encounter a striped skunk. 

Striped skunks are unique because they can produce an oily spray from glands underneath their tail. This spray is fowl smelling and is meant to ward off predators and allow the skunk to escape. Not many animals eat skunks, but one of their main predators are great horned owls.  Skunks are nocturnal, meaning that they are typically most active between dusk and dawn.  Striped skunks are much less active during the winter, staying underground in burrows for extended periods of time, but not truly hibernating. 

Striped skunks are omnivores that feed opportunistically. Their main summer diet is composed of vegetation and insects such as grubs, grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets. Their winter diet is composed of vegetation, eggs, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. 

Make sure that you are not inadvertently feeding striped skunks. Do you feed your pets outside?  Leaving any type of pet food outside overnight or in a container that is accessible by wildlife encourages wildlife to be in your yard and in close contact. If you see a striped skunk in your yard, but you are not feeding pets, watch to see if the skunk is digging in your yard. Skunks are well known for digging up earthworms, grubs and underground insects in home lawns. By eliminating food sources, skunks are less likely to cause damage and encounter humans or pets.  

Skunks can carry diseases that are transmittable to humans. The disease of most concern is skunk rabies, but skunks can also carry leptospirosis, canine distemper, and canine hepatitis. Skunk rabies is found in the Midwest. If you see a skunk out during the day that is aggressive or unafraid of humans, please contact your local conservation officer or animal control.

By having an environment that is not attractive to skunks, you and your pets are less likely to encounter them and have any potential problems with them. Help keep skunks safe and wild, if you see a skunk observe it from a distance and do not approach this feisty sprayer. Let’s help keep wildlife wild by doing our part to remove attractive food and housing for these striped diggers.