I like skunks. While I would not be thrilled to be sprayed by one, I appreciate their unique look and inspiring opportunistic personality.

I recently had a new experience with a skunk, illustrated in this limerick I was inspired to write afterwards:

A Sea-Swimming Skunk:

Along the seashore waddled a skunk
Until the nocturnal waters beckoned him to plunk
Into the sea Mephitis swam
In search of a clam?
Perhaps he was cleansing himself since he stunk
Alternative ending: Go home skunk, thought I, you’re drunk

Up until recently, skunks were considered members of the weasel family, Mustelidae, but their ability to spray their oily musk long distances (in addition to some DNA differences) separated them from the weasels. They are now considered members of the Mephitidae family, which includes all skunks and stink badgers.

Sketch by H. Stark
Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis

They can spray that oily musk of theirs up to 20 feet! And their coloration also acts as a visual predator deterrent. While they are usually docile unless acting in defense, there are some signs that indicate when a spray is imminent: they arch their back, raise their tail, and stomp their feet (sounds pretty adorable to me). If that doesn’t work, they’ll actually do a handstand and keep stomping. Then, while still looking at their opponent, they’ll curve their rear ends around and spray while keeping visual contact with the potential predator.

Skunk Skull
Skunk Skull

Skunk bodies are built for being opportunistic omnivores. They’ll eat anything and use their 34 variously sharp teeth to succeed. Their long claws also help with this quest. They primarily eat insects, but also go for small rodents, amphibians, birds, eggs, and plants.

Even though their range includes notoriously wintry environments (e.g. Maine), they do not hibernate; instead, they rely on fat reserves and remain mostly dormant.

I hope you now like skunks a little more, too.


Sketches by H.Stark