Breeding & Offspring
Breeding season typically occurs from February through March. In late April and early May, the female will excavate a den and give birth to 2-10 kits, which are born blind and helpless. If disturbed, females will move their kits to a new den. The kits do not leave the den until they are approximately 6 to 8 weeks old.
When they leave the den, the kits follow their mother in search of food and will den with her in alternate dens until they are independent at two to five months.
Striped skunks are typically docile mammals that tolerate humans in close proximity without showing aggression. The most distinguishing characteristic of all skunks is their ability to direct a stream or spray of musk for several meters from paired anal glands. The musk is a strong irritant to the eyes and nose, and acts as a depressant to the central nervous system.
If threatened, skunks will give many warning signs before spraying their potential victim. If the potential threat does not leave, the skunk will begin to turn its hind-end towards the threat and begin to expose its anal glands and the bare skin surrounding them. This is the last warning a skunk gives before accurately directing a stream or fine mist of its musk at the perceived threat.
During the summer months, skunks typically sleep in retreats above ground; shaded areas in tall grass, under shrubs, in thickets, or under decks and building. They do not show much fidelity to above ground retreats, but will re-visit them from time to time.
Skunks are not true hibernators. When nighttime temperatures are above 30° F, skunks become active for periods of time. Thus, dog owners should beware on unusually warm winter nights. Skunks will be out and about, stretching their legs and searching for food. When temperatures stay below freezing however, skunks will sleep to conserve energy.
In Massachusetts, skunk predators include Great-horned owls, coyotes, foxes and domestic dogs.
Striped skunks are omnivores and primarily eat insects, invertebrates and fruit. Striped skunks will also eat human garbage, compost, and birdseed from feeders. Thus, they are can also be found around homes in urban and suburban areas. Their primary method of foraging involves digging, often appears as a single, small hole in a lawn, leaf litter, or sand.