gotten themselves a bad reputation over the
years. They are often thought of as very smelly
pests, although when you know more about them,
the more you can see that this isn’t the whole
truth. There is so much more to them than that!
The stinky scent that skunks are so famous for emit occurs when males try to attract females that might not be ‘in the mood’. It’s their own way of ‘having a headache’! They send out the scent to get rid of potential unwanted suitors. Skunks are polygamous, which means that the males will successfully mate with more than one female during the mating season – which is why the females need this repellent tool.
Skunks are very near-sighted, but have a strong sense of smell which is why this particular method of communication is so effective. The other ways that skunks talk to one another are stomping their feet, hissing, clicking their teeth, growling, screeching, squealing or grunting.
The main mating seasons for striped skunks are February and March. They have a gestation period of 60 to 75 days, which means that the babies are often born in March and June. Spotted skunks breed later in the year, with some even waiting until the autumn. Another interesting fact about skunk pregnancy is that the babies use a placenta to help them grow, in the same way human babies do.
When skunks aren’t breeding, they are very solitary animals. Although when it’s cold they may gather in their dens for warmth. They don’t hibernate; just snuggle to keep them heated. When a female skunk is due to give birth, she will retreat to one of these dens to house her litter of four to seven babies (which are referred to as ‘kits’).
These kits are born deaf, blind and covered in a layer of soft fur. They actually develop the ability to produce their own musk at approximately 8 days old (although they can’t spray it until a few weeks later) – which is before they even open their eyes, at 3 weeks old.
They won’t actually leave the den with their mother until they are 6 to 8 weeks old (although only at night – as skunks are nocturnal creatures), which is about the same time that the babies are weaned onto adult food. They then stay with their mother until they are ready to mate themselves, which is usually when they are about one year old. The male plays no part in raising the children. Skunks generally live to be 2 or 3 years old in the wild – although in captivity, they have been known to live until they are 10!
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