How Long Does a Skunk Live?

Skunks can adapt to a variety of environments, but the threat of predators and agricultural pesticides has led to a drastic decline in their longevity.

Nov 15, 2023byLisa Szymanski
how long does a skunk live

A skunk doesn’t have a very long lifespan in the wild, and that’s because they have to survive pesticides, traps, diseases, and natural predators. Skunks like to scavenge and move into residential areas where they can find leftover food. This brings them into close contact with humans, where they’re seen as pests. Skunks play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, but sharing their home with humans has significantly shortened their lifespans. In this guide, we answer the question, how long do skunks live?

What Affects a Skunk’s Lifespan?

skunk standing on grass and sand
A skunk in its natural habitat.

You’d assume that a skunk’s natural predators are responsible for their short lives, but disease and pest control account for a larger percentage. A skunk will make its way into trash cans or steal eggs from a chicken coop, making them a nuisance to humans. To get rid of them, many people use bait and poison to eliminate skunks from their property. On farms, it’s not uncommon for skunks to be shot. These spraying animals are also carriers of illnesses such as distemper, hepatitis, and rabies. If you come across a sick skunk, always contact a wildlife rescue to assist with the safe and humane management of affected animals.

How Long Do Skunks Live in the Wild?

skunk walking on rocks
Skunks make shrubs, woodlands, and rocky environments their homes.

Skunks do not have long lifespans in the wild, only reaching an average of 2-3 years. This seems like an incredibly short age for an animal that is able to adapt to so many situations, but rising threats have impacted their homes. Skunks will scavenge for food, but their normal diet consists of bees, bugs, mice, and frogs. The use of pesticides to control bugs and rodents means that skunks are exposed to these chemicals in residential and agricultural areas. In addition to pesticides, skunks are targeted by coyotes, owls, foxes, and even regular dogs if they can’t defend themselves with skunk spray. Traps and accidental road kills are also responsible for shortening their longevity.

Do Skunks Live Longer in Captivity?

skunk food vegetables in an orange bowl
Skunks enjoy a variety of vegetables in their diet.

When raised in captivity, a skunk doesn’t have to contend with outside factors such as traps, getting knocked by a car, or exposure to poisonous chemicals. In captivity, they can reach around 7 years of age. With balanced food and a spacious environment, many domestic skunks can live up to 10 years. A skunk that lives in a secure home will not be exposed to its natural predators. Captive skunks that are regularly vaccinated are resistant to diseases such as rabies and distemper. These life-threatening diseases can be passed from wild skunks to cats and dogs. If you live in an area that is frequented by skunks, try to keep your pets away from these roaming creatures. This prevents confrontation and the possibility of being sprayed or bitten.

Can You Keep a Skunk as a Pet?

skunk being held by a person after rescue
Skunks make loving and interesting pets.

Skunks certainly make unusual pets with their unique appearance and quirky personalities. It is not recommended to keep these striped or spotted animals as companions because they can be quite challenging to handle. A skunk that is chosen as a pet usually has the glands responsible for its smelly spray surgically removed. This prevents any mishaps, like getting sprayed, while handling them! The downside of removing their stinkers is their inability to defend themselves should they escape. So if you are considering keeping a skunk as a pet, they need a secure, large, and stimulating place to stay. They won’t be happy with a setup for a pet ferret or a guinea pig, and they’re extremely active animals that can be walked on a leash. To keep a pet skunk healthy, they need a diet of eggs, insects, and vegetables. A good diet will prevent health conditions, including heart disease and cancer, in skunks.

Respecting Skunks in the Wild

skunk standing next to a log
A skunk in its natural habitat.

Both the striped and spotted skunk live in similar habitats across North America. They prefer bush and woodland areas where they roam in summer and hide away in dens in winter. Skunks are not aggressive animals, but their tendency to get too close to humans and pets has unfortunately led to drastic measures to eliminate them. Skunks reach an average age of 3 years when they live in the wild because they have to contend with people, cars, and illnesses. They can suffer from secondary poisoning because the rodents and bugs that they feed on in the wild are targeted with pesticides and insecticides. To help these furry animals, we should always respect them in their natural habitats. Skunk-proofing your home and contacting wildlife services go a long way toward living in harmony with these unique animals.

Lisa Szymanski
byLisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the \"queens of the yard,\" Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.