Common Name: Skunks
Scientific name: Mephitis Mephitis
Costa Rica’s Skunks: Striped Hog-nosed Skunk – Conepatus semistriatus
Family: Skunks are considered part of the family Mustelidae, which also includes badgers and other small burrowing animals.
Weight: 7 oz to 14 lbs (198 g to 6 kg) Mephitis mephitis
Average length: It can be about 30 inches long, about the size of a common house cat. Head and body, 8 to 19 in (20 to 48 cm); tail, 5 to 15 in (13 to 38 cm)
40 to 80 cm
Color: Black, White, Gray and Striped
Skin Type: Fur
Range: The striped variety is most often seen in almost any extent in North America. Throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Costa Rica.
Diet: Their diet is considered omnivorous, consisting of berries, plants, insects, small mammals and even a wandering bird, egg or even garbage. They are known to eat insect larvae and parasites that hinder agricultural production, which makes them quite similar value in some cases.
Average lifespan: 5-8 years
Habitat: Open woodland and dense shrub, In North America, skunks are found everywhere. They tend to prefer night movements, but are not strictly nocturnal.
Breeding/Reproduction: Skunks tend to breed in late winter and have a gestation period of about nine weeks. Ranges of up to six babies stay with their mothers until fall, when venturing out on their own. The skunk does not mean past the age of three years in the wild, but they are known to live up to a decade under the right circumstances.
Skunks are mammals which are known for its notoriety of secreting liquid with a very foul stench. This is because of their two anal scent glands located on each on the side of the anus. It can produce a mixture of sulphur containing chemicals like methyl and butyl thiols. The muscles next to those scent glands can allow them to spray in high accuracy for approximately ten feet. When secreted it produced a very foul smell which can be described as a blend of odors from rotten eggs, garlic and burnt rubber. Aside from the odor, the spray can protect the skunks from possible attacker since it can cause irritation and even temporary blindness. It will also makes elaborate hisses, foot stamping with tail high threat posture before resorting to spraying possible attacker. Wolves, bears and even human rarely attacks skunk because their strong odor is hard to remove. The skunk’s serious predator is the great horned owl since most birds has poor or even some has nonexistent sense of smell.
Mostly skunks have black and white fur but their appearance generally varies from species to species since some is brown and cream colored but all are striped even from birth. They also vary in sizes from about 40 to 94 cm and in weight from about 1.1 lbs to 18 lbs depending on its specie. Skunks have an elongated body with short and vigorous muscled legs. They had long front claws mostly used for digging. They are omnivorous which means they eat both animals and plants. Their main diet consists of insects, small rodents, larvae, earthworms, lizards, birds, salamanders, snakes, frogs and eggs. Also they eat berries, leaves, grasses, fungi, nuts and roots. They are the main predators of honeybee since their thick fur defends them from honeybee stings.
There are four genuses of skunks. First is the Conepatus consist of Molina’s hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus chinga), which are also called Andes Skunk. They are found mostly in South America. The Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus humboldtii) is known as the Patagonian hog-nosed skunks are indigenous to the open grassy areas in Patagonian regions of Argentina and Chile. The American hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus leuconotus) can be found in Central and North America including Costa Rica. It is one of the largest skunks in the world. Last of this genus is striped hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus semistriatus) which is from Central and South America and is naturally nocturnal in nature. Second genus is the Mephitis which is composed of Hooded Skunk (Mephitis macroura) found in South-western United Sates, Central America and Mexico. The Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) which is mostly found in North America and North of Mexico has a black body with white stripe along its side of the body. The two stripes are joining in the nape. The forehead has also white stripe. Third genus is the Mydaus which consists of Sunda stink badger (Mydaus javanensis) found in Southeast Asia primarily in Indonesia hence the other name Indonesian stink badger. It was been classified that the DNA of this animals are not member of the badger family but of skunks. The Palawan stink badger (Mydaus marchei) found in Palawan, Philippines. The fourth genus is the Spilogale which consists of Southern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale angustifrons) found in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua. The Western spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis) found in Western United States, Northern Mexico and South-western British Columbia. The Eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) found in eastern United States and small areas in Canada and Mexico. The Pygmy Spotted Skunk (Spilogale pygmaea) which is endemic in Mexico.
Skunks are crepuscular creature which means they are more active during twilight. They are also typically polygamous which means males usually mate with more than one female. Female skunks give birth from four to seven kits. When born, skunks are blind, deaf and covered in soft furs. Only after three weeks that a baby skunks can open their eyes. Mothers are very protective of its kits but male skunks play no part in raising their young.
Keeping skunks< in the United States is legal to certain States. The striped skunk since it is the most social of the skunk so they are more commonly be keep as pets. Pet owners had the scent gland surgically removed to avoid being sprayed. In the United Kingdom, having a pet skunk is legal but the Animal Welfare Act 2006 has made it illegal to remove its scent glands, making it absurd to have it as pets.