Wild Guide

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From Missouri Conservationist: February 2020

Striped Skunk | Mephitis mephitis




Length: 20–30 inches, weight: 2½–11½ pounds


Statewide, fewer in the Bootheel’s Mississippi Lowlands

The striped skunk is as well known for its distinctive black coat and white stripe as is its recognizable scent. Skunks are common Missouri residents that prefer brushy fields and forest borders with nearby sources of water. Their dens are typically in the ground, but they will use a stump, cave, rock or wood pile, haystack, or farm building if necessary.

Life Cycle

You will begin to see more skunks this month as they begin breeding. Their litters of four to six young are born from May to early June. As temperatures begin to drop in early autumn, skunks take to their dens, but they do not hibernate. They sleep intermittently.


Striped skunks forage for food at night. Eating both plants and animals, they are considered omnivores. During the spring and summer, insects are their preferred meal. They will also
eat mice and rats, moles, shrews, ground squirrels, young
rabbits, and chipmunks. Skunks will catch and consume small
mammals, but will eat larger mammals as carrion.

Ecosystem Connections

Despite their well-known funk, skunks do a lot of good for nature. As scavengers, they serve as the woods’ clean-up crew. In addition, skunks consume smaller animals and insects, helping to control their populations.

Did You Know?

Skunks usually warn their target before spraying their signature musk. They stamp their feet and hold their tail high in the air. If you are near a skunk and see these two signs, it’s a good indication to go the other way.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler