About the Study Guide

You are looking at a preview of what’s in the timed Today's Trapper Course. Feel free to look around, but you’ll need to register to begin progress toward getting your Trapper Education Certification Card

Learn More Register for the Course

Skunk
  • Since people have lived in America, skunks have been trapped for profit and pleasure. Skunk fur came into heavy demand during the 1800s. In the early 1900s, skunk was the second most popular fur in the industry (muskrat was most popular).
  • The skunk is mostly black. A thin white stripe down the center of the face broadens across the top of the head and neck. The stripe forks back from the shoulder to form two white stripes almost to the tail. The tail is usually black, but some white hairs may show. The typical striped pattern varies from skunk to skunk. Some skunks show no white; others have a single stripe down the back; others have both stripes.
  • This animal is a member of the weasel family. All members of this family have musk glands at the base of the tail. These glands release scent. The skunk can release one or both glands with the scent going to the side or directly behind.
  • Skunks like to be left alone. When not bothered, they will go their way without causing trouble. But when danger approaches, the animal may stamp its front feet rapidly or even walk on its front feet with its tail held high. This is a warning sign that the skunk is about to spray. Similarly, when a skunk raises its tail and turns its body so that both the head and tail face an intruder, it is time to move away. In fact, it may already be too late.
  • The skunk is at home in semi-open country with a mixture of woods, brushy fields, fence rows, ravines, and open fields, as long as water is close by. Skunks prefer to live in dens already prepared by other animals, such as the empty dens of woodchucks, foxes, or muskrats. "Home" also might be a stump, cave, rock pile, refuse dump, or building foundation.
  • Skunks are not true hibernators. They sleep intermittently when the temperature reaches 15° Fahrenheit but are inactive for only a few weeks. Sometimes eight or ten females will den together in cold weather. Males tend to be solitary.
  • After the young are born in May or June, the female skunk takes charge of them. When it is necessary to move them, she carries them by the nape of the neck, the same way a cat carries her kittens. When the young are about seven weeks old, the female takes them hunting for the first time. In the fall, the family breaks up, and each skunk goes its own way.
  • The skunk does much more good than harm by eating insects, moles, small rodents, and other pests.
Skunk map
Skunk Range
Skunk tracks
Skunk Range

Skunk Facts

  • Mating: may be polygamous.
  • Breeding period: February and March.
  • Gestation period: about 63 days.
  • Birth period: April and May.
  • Litters per year: usually 1; old females bear their young in early May; young females bear their young in early June.
  • Number of Young: 2 to 16 per litter; average 4 to 6; younger, smaller females have fewer offspring than older, larger females.
  • Adult weight: 3 to 10 pounds.
  • Feeding time: early evening through most of the night.
  • Movement: home range is 1 to 2 miles; may travel much less in a night.
  • Typical foods: both plant and animal foods are eaten; preferred foods are grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, and many kinds of shrews, ground squirrels, and other small animals; occasionally skunks will eat small birds or their eggs.