Spotted Skunk


The western spotted skunk, while not particularly common in San Bernardino County, is nonetheless present in the region. One place it has been seen on occasion is in the southwestern portion of the county, in Chino Hills and Carbon Canyon.
The western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis) as a species can be found west of the Continental Divide from southern British Columbia to Central America, as well as in some parts of Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and western Texas. Eastward, its range borders that of the eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius).
The name Spilogale comes from the Greek word spilo, which means “spotted”, and gale, which means “weasel.” Gracilis is the Latin word for “slender.
Spilogale usually like to reside in covered thickets, woods, riparian hardwood, shrubbery, and areas that are located near streams.
Shy creatures, they prefer to dwell in a den or natural cavities such as stumps or hollow logs. Although they have very effective digging claws, they prefer to occupy dens that are made by gophers, wood rats, pocket gophers or striped skunks. They occupy dens that are positioned to be completely dark inside. Spilogale are very social creatures and frequently share dens with up to seven other skunks. Although skunks often live in this way, maternal dens are not open to non-maternal skunks.
Despite their name they do not have spots. The only spot is found on the forehead. The spotted skunk has various areas of white on the body that mix with the black. They don’t feature the famous white stripe that goes down the middle of the back. The coloration scheme isn’t the only difference for the spotted skunk. They have a body that seems very similar in style to that of the weasel. They have short feet and they are very slow moving.
Spotted skunks protect themselves by spraying a strong and unpleasant scent. Two glands on the sides of the anus release the odorous oil through nipples. When threatened, the skunk turns its body into a U-shape with the head and anus facing the attacker. Muscles around the nipples of the scent gland aim them, giving the skunk great accuracy on targets up to 15 feet away. As a warning before spraying, the skunk stamps its front feet, raises its tail, and hisses. They may warn with a unique “hand stand”—the back vertical and the tail waving.
The liquid is secreted via paired anal subcutaneous glands that are connected to the body through striated muscles. The odorous solution is emitted as an atomized spray that is nearly invisible or as streams of larger droplets.
Skunks store about 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of the odorous oil and can quickly spray five times in row. It takes about one week to replenish the oil.
The secretion of the spotted skunks differs from that of the striped skunks. The two major thiols of the striped skunks, (E)-2-butene-1-thiol and 3-methyl-1-butanethiol are the major components in the secretion of the spotted skunks along with a third thiol, 2-phenylethanethiol.
Around the time of March, the males’ testes begin to enlarge and are most massive by late September. The increase in size is accompanied by a larger testosterone production. Similarly, a female begins to experience an increase in ovarian activity in March. Spilogale begin to mate during March as well. Implantation occurs approximately 14–16 days after mating. For the western spotted skunk, most copulations occur in late September and the beginning of October. The males will go looking for harems of females that are living together. He will try to mate with all of them. He will have competition though from other males that want to have that right with those females. Only one male can mate per female though so the stronger and more aggressive one will win.
The females won’t mate again until the following year. However, the males will go on a quest to find as many females as possible during the mating season. He will be very skinny and tired by the time that is over because he will rarely even stop to eat.
Although litter sizes vary considerably, the average litter size is about 5.5. The overall gender ratio at birth is 65 males to 35 females.
The newborn skunks are covered with fine hair that shows the adult color pattern. The eyes open between 30 and 32 days. The kits start solid food at about 42 days and are weaned at about two months. They are full grown and reach adult size at about four months. The males do not help in raising the young.
Skunks are omnivorous and will eat small rodents, fruits, berries, birds, eggs, insects and larvae, lizards, snakes, and carrion. Their diet may vary with the seasons as food availability fluctuates.[4] They have a keen sense of smell that helps them find grubs and other food. Their hearing is acute but they have poor vision. They are nocturnal, coming out at dusk to look for food. They will spend the daylight hours in a den where it is cool. Males will live alone but it is common to find several females in one. They won’t do so though when they have young to care for.
Spotted skunks can live 10 years in captivity, but in the wild, about half the skunks die after 1 or 2 years.
They often fight over food and location, but they don’t spray each other with their oils. Instead, they will bite and scratch until one of them runs away from the battle.

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