Eastern spotted skunk

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Eastern spotted skunk
Spilogale putorius (2).jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mephitidae
Genus: Spilogale
Species: S. putorius
Binomial name
Spilogale putorius
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Map showing North America
Range of Spilogale putorius

The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) is a small, relatively slender skunk found throughout the eastern United States and in small areas of Canada and Mexico.

Skull

This small skunk is more weasel-like in body shape than the more familiar striped skunk. The eastern spotted skunk has four stripes on its back[2] which are broken in pattern, giving it a "spotted" appearance. They have a white spot on their forehead. They are found in Canada (southeast Manitoba and northwestern Ontario), the United States and northeastern Mexico.[1] Males, at 46.3–68.8 cm (18.2–27.1 in) in total length, are large than females, at 35–54.4 cm (13.8–21.4 in).[2] Roughly a third of their total length is comprised by the tail. Body mass can range from 0.2 to 1.8 kg (0.44 to 3.97 lb), with males averaging around 700 g (1.5 lb) against the female's average of 450 g (0.99 lb).[3] Skull length is 43–55 mm (1.7–2.2 in).[4] The Eastern spotted skunk is a very small skunk, which (for comparison sake) is no larger than a good-sized tree squirrel.[2][5]

They are much more active than any other type of skunk. They have mostly the same predators as any other skunk (big cats, bobcats, owls, humans, etc.). Up to eight skunks may share an underground den in the winter. They can also climb and take shelter in trees.[citation needed]

Eastern spotted skunks seem to prefer forest edges and upland prairie grasslands, especially where rock outcrops and shrub clumps are present. In western counties, it relies heavily on riparian corridors where woody shrubs and woodland edges are present. Woody fencerows, odd areas, and abandoned farm buildings are also important habitat for Eastern Spotted Skunks.

Fur skin of Spilogale putorius

Characteristics[edit]

Spilogale putorius possess a small weasel-like body with fine, dense black fur that has 4 to 6 broken, white stripes.[6] Two of the stripes are located at the median of the body and four stripes are placed on the side running from the back of the head to the rear. White markings are present on both cheeks, as well as on the tip of the tail. This is known as an aposematic fur pattern and is thought to act as a warning to predators.

The typical body length of eastern spotted skunks is 24 to 26 centimetres (9.4 to 10.2 in) with a tail length from 11 to 19 centimetres (4.3 to 7.5 in), resulting in a total length of 35 to 45 centimetres (14 to 18 in). The feet are 40 to 53 millimetres (1.6 to 2.1 in) long, and the forefeet have claws approximately 7 millimetres (0.28 in) long, while the hind feet have claws that are around 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in). The feet are equipped with pads on the soles that aid in climbing. The large claws of the forefeet help the skunk dig and grasp prey. The total body weight of adults ranges from 400 to 965 grams (14.1 to 34.0 oz).

Behavior[edit]

Eastern spotted skunks are quite secretive and crafty creatures, and it is a rarity for humans to see them. They are also nocturnal and tend to be more active during dry cool nights rather than warm wet nights. Although these skunks do not hibernate, they do tend to greatly reduce their activity when enduring intensely warm summers or very cold winters.[6] Generally speaking, out of the four species, S. putorius is the most active. They are also more agile and vigilant than the other skunks dwelling in North America.

In addition to performing a handstand before spraying a potential predator, the skunk also performs what foot stamping, which involves the skunk stamping its feet on the ground in order to warn an approaching predator. The stamping can be heard for several meters away and is usually followed by the skunk spraying its odorous solution. When these skunks encounter an egg that they want to eat they will straddle the egg with their front legs and bite the egg open. If this fails they will then proceed to use their front legs to push the egg back and kick it with one of their hind legs.[6]

Breeding[edit]

Eastern spotted skunks breed mostly in the later winter months and give birth in late Spring to early Summer. On average the female skunk will give birth to 4–5 baby skunks (kits) at a time. It takes twelve weeks before newborn skunks will become fully developed into adult skunks and two months before they develop skunk musk to use as self-defense.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Cuarón, A.D., Reid, F. & Helgen, K. (2008). Spilogale putorius. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  2. ^ a b c John O. Whitaker, Jr. (30 July 2010). Mammals of Indiana: A Field Guide. Indiana University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-253-22213-8. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Hunter, Luke (2011). Carnivores of the World. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-15228-8. 
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ a b c Bullock, Lindsay (December 2008). "Mammals of Mississippi". Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. 

External links[edit]