8 Fascinating Facts About Skunks

Have you ever encountered a skunk? If so, how did you react? Read on to discover 8 facts about skunks that might surprise you!

Nov 5, 2023By Jill Horton
facts about skunks

While they might be most famous for their malodorous defense mechanism, there's a depth of intriguing information waiting to be explored about these black-and-white creatures. Dive in to uncover 8 fascinating facts.

8. People Keep Skunks as Pets

pet skunk affectionate
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Exotic pets come in a range of species, sizes, colors, and smells! It might surprise you to learn that these critters are found in homes with common choices like dogs, cats, rabbits, or fish. People adopt skunks from rescues or purchase them from breeders and specialty shops. The glands responsible for producing skunk oil are typically removed in pet skunks.

If you are considering taking care of one of these nocturnal beauties, check your local laws first. Not every state allows skunks to be kept as pets. You might need to meet unique requirements, such as obtaining a permit for ownership. A little research can go a long way toward your success in raising one!

7. Not All Skunks are Black and White

albino skunk
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Until I did research to write and share this article with you, I had no idea that skunks came in colors other than their distinct black and white! Are you as surprised as I am? Thinking back on everything from cartoons to books to movies, I don’t remember seeing them portrayed otherwise.

The skunk pictured above is an albino. Their coats can also be brown, grey, cream, or ginger. The varieties are found throughout diverse skunk species. Did you know a thick white stripe is only one of many patterns? Like the overall hue variation, skunks can have an extra streak of white. You might also see these creatures with jagged lines or spots!

6. Skunk Spray is Smelly

pig nose snout
Image Credit: Pexels from Pixaby

It’s no secret that skunk spray doesn’t exactly smell like roses. When you imagine skunks, the complete opposite comes to mind. The oily substance clings to surfaces tighter than a fist holding money. Unless skunk spray is neutralized immediately, the odor hangs on for the long haul. Weeks to months might pass before the last traces dissipate completely.

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell a story about his younger years. According to him, his scout group had a container of skunk spray. The boy who lost a particular challenge had to keep the bottle until the next meeting and be teased that “losing stinks.” I can’t say for certain that it’s a true tale, of course, and something like that wouldn’t go over well today.

5. Skunks Call Weasels and Badgers Family

badger pair grass
Image Credit: PBarlowArt from Pixaby

Do you know the members of your family tree? Who are your cousins and long-lost relatives? Well, skunks call weasels and badgers like the pair pictured above kin. In fact, an animal known as the “Old World stink badger” is considered their nearest group of wildlife.

Young skunks, or kits, are born in a den built for them by their mother to keep them warm. Mama bears aren’t the only protective parents in nature. Female skunks unleash streams of spray upon anything that they see as a threat to their kits. The four to seven siblings live at home until they are about a year old.

4. Skunks Don’t Hibernate

striped skunk snow
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Unlike bears, skunks don’t hibernate throughout the entire winter. They do take really long naps, though. To survive the colder months, females use their combined body heat to stay toasty. Most of the time, groups of around a dozen hang out in the same den they used during previous years. The guys, on the other hand, prefer to tough it out alone.

Skunks have a range of about two miles tops when it’s comfortable outside. If the ground is blanketed by snow, they stick close to home. Eating is kept to a minimum, too. Not only are food sources scarce in the winter, but hunting and gathering burns valuable calories needed for warmth.

3. Do Skunks Bite Humans?

cat play biting human
Image Credit: Crina Doltu from Pexels

If you own a cat or dog, you have likely been nipped a time or two. Kittens and puppies are notorious for exploring the world around them using their teeth. What about pet skunks? Do they bite people?

Generally, domesticated skunks are amiable and calm. If your adorable new friend becomes startled, it might try to defend itself. Without the ability to spray, the next best forms of protection are biting or scratching. You might receive the occasional graze from your pet’s pearly whites if you feed your skunk from your hand, too.

2. Night Owls

night owl branch
Image Credit: Sonder Quest on Unsplash

Skunks share the moonlight with their only legitimate predator, the great horned owl. These furry animals have a sharp sense of smell but are severely near-sighted. The owls have a clear advantage. On top of superior eyes, great horned owls are masters of deception. Like ninjas, they blend flawlessly with their surroundings. Their unsuspecting prey don’t have a chance to defend themselves.

Not everything that takes to the skies at night is dangerous, though. Moths and fireflies are skunk-friendly creatures. The insects have more to worry about from them! Bugs are a tasty treat for skunks.

1. Omnivores

food platter variety
Image Credit: Kim Daniels on Unsplash

Skunks have diverse tastes. As mentioned, these omnivores enjoy eating insects. What else do they consider fine dining? Skunks’ diets depend slightly on the time of year. For example, they love a good salad when fresh fruits like berries are in season! Blades of grass, plant roots, nuts, and leaves help spruce it up.

Did you know that skunks use their claws to dig into beehives? As it turns out, these critters adore devouring bees! They aren’t after the honey. Can you believe it? To top off the food pyramid, these nocturnal animals hunt small prey like lizards, frogs, birds, and even snakes.

Jill Horton
By Jill Horton

Jill is a rescue animal advocate and volunteer at Free to Live Animal Sanctuary. Her social media posts contain adoptable dogs and cats from there. Dogs Lucius and Colossus, cats Moses and Maximus, and four parakeets keep her on her toes at home. If you need help finding Jill, check her writing cave. She is likely typing away on her newest article or animal-themed children's book.