Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals

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  Carnivora · Mephitidae · Mephitis mephitis

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Mephitis mephitis

Striped Skunk

Order: Carnivora
Family: Mephitidae

Click to see a 3-D view.
Image of Mephitis mephitis
Mephitis mephitis - typical pattern, lower left; white tail variant, upper right
Click to enlarge. (110 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.

The Striped Skunk is the most common skunk in North America, yet most of what we know about it comes from studies of captive individuals. Like all skunks, it has a superb defense system, the ability to spray a foul-smelling fluid from two glands near the base of its tail. Skunk musk is oily and difficult to remove. If sprayed in the eyes, it causes intense pain and temporary blindness. Skunk kittens can spray when they are only eight days old, long before they can aim, a skill they exhibit only after their eyes open at about 24 days. Skunks attempt to give a warning before they spray: both Hooded and Striped skunks stamp their front feet before turning around and spraying. Like all skunks, Striped Skunks are nocturnal and eat a variable diet, mostly of insects, but also including small mammals, carrion, and some vegetation.

Also known as:
Skunk, Big/large Skunk, Polecat

Sexual Dimorphism:
Males are 15% larger than females, but females have longer tails.

Range: 575-800 mm

Range: 1,200-5,300 g


Schreber, J.C.D., 1776.  in Schreber's Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen, Wolfgang Walther, Erlangen, 7 volumes, 1774-1846; 3(17):pl. 121[1776], text, 3(26):444, 588 (index)[1777].


Mammal Species of the World (opens in a new window).

Mammalian Species, American Society of Mammalogists' species account *
* PDF reader available here (opens in a new window).

Distribution of Mephitis mephitis

Image of Mephitis mephitis
Click to enlarge. (147kb)

Skull of Mephitis mephitis
Click to enlarge. (24kb)

Image of Mephitis mephitis
Mephitis mephitis - other pattern variations: short bands, upper right; spotted bands, lower left
Click to enlarge. (104kb)

Image of Mephitis mephitis
Mephitis mephitis (Striped Skunk), Appalachian Trail
Click to enlarge. (328kb)