Skunks are solitary animals, except when they're breeding and when mothers are caring for their young. Normally gentle and quiet, skunks make a variety of sounds, but none that are specific to their breeding season. Because they only interact in May and June, more vocalization may occur during this time. Four skunk types inhabit North America -- striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), spotted skunks (Spilogale putorrius), hooded skunks (Mephitis macroura) and hog-nosed skunks (Conepatus mesoleucus).
Long, Sharp Claws are Used for Digging
A skunk has long black fur with distinctive white markings, either striped or spotted. His length is 22 to 31 inches, including his long, bushy tail, and he weighs up to 12 pounds. He has a small head, small ears and a stout body with short legs. Long, sharp claws on his front feet are designed for digging. Two glands, one on each side of his anus, contain a strong musk that he can fire at will.
They Make a Variety of Noises
Skunks are usually silent, but when they vocalize, a variety of sounds can be heard. Juveniles are often noisier than adults. Skunks will hiss, squeal, screech and whine when angry, whimper if frightened, grumble when upset, chirp for attention, smack their lips in contentment and stomp loudly to frighten away enemies. Skunks have poor eyesight, and use their sense of smell when searching for food, making an audible snuffling sound.
Males Live Alone
Skunks often take over abandoned fox, groundhog or rabbit dens. Up to six females may live together in a den, but males live alone. Breeding takes place in February and March. A single male may mate with several females. Kits are born 60 to 75 days later, usually in April and May, staying with their mothers until they reach sexual maturity at approximately 8 months old.
Kits Begin Scolding
When the kits are born they're almost hairless, but faint traces of their black and white markings can be seen on their pink skin. Born blind and helpless, their eyes will open when they're about 3 weeks old. At 1 month old, kits begin stomping their feet and scolding. They can produce musk at 8 days old, and are able to spray five or six weeks later.
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Karen Mihaylo has been a writer since 2009. She has been a professional dog groomer since 1982 and is certified in canine massage therapy. Mihaylo holds an associate degree in human services from Delaware Technical and Community College.