Skunks: Spilogale putorius & Mephitis mephitis
The striped skunk has broad stripes that may run the length of the body, but its coloration can vary. They may appear mostly black or mostly white. By contrast the coloration of Eastern spotted skunks is less variable. Both skunk species are about the size of a house cat with a small head, short legs, and a bushy tail.
The Eastern spotted skunk and striped skunk live throughout Florida except for the Keys.
Both species occur in brushy fields, weedy pastures, disturbed areas, and in residential and suburban areas.
Skunks are usually active at night. They eat animals and plant materials. They may be attracted by insects commonly found in lawns, fruit trees, gardens, or wherever food scraps are kept.
Skunks will den in vacant armadillo or gopher tortoise burrows (though they can dig their own) or brush piles, wood piles, areas with high grass, and similar sources of shelter.
Female skunks generally give birth to a litter of 4 to 7 young in the spring. Newborns are blind and have fine hair exhibiting the black and white pattern they will have as adults. When they are about six weeks old, the young follow their mother on food forays, searching for small mammals, insects, bird eggs, and amphibians, as well as roots, seeds, fruit and other plant parts. The mother and young stay together for several months, emerging from their underground burrows at night.
In addition to showing their young how to find food, female skunks also teach their defensive strategies, the most effective of these being a pungent spray of oily musk from scent glands located near the anus. The spray can be effectively aimed at targets up to 15 feet away. The spray deters predators such as foxes, bobcats, coyotes and domestic dogs. Their chief predator is the great horned owl.
Image Credit: Kristen Nelson