Laetitia, on the runway. She was so beautiful I named her after the French super model Laetitia Costa.
Many skunk information sites will have you believe that all skunks look the same, are similar to cats, and live in other animals burrows. This just isn't so. I shouldn't have to tell you what a skunk looks like, but I will so you will know that they all do not look alike. Striped skunks have two stripes down each side of their back. These stripes can be long or short, thin or wide, may go all the way down the length of the tail, stop just past the shoulders or anywhere in between. They can have white on their legs, chest, and belly as well. The variations of their markings are as differed as peoples hair. The stripe on the face can also differ from one to the next, being short, long, thin or wide, or rarely no face stripe at all. The texture of fur also varies from smooth and sleek to course, fluffy and slightly wavy. The stripes are no indication of the sex of the animal.
Skunks bodies are pear shaped with an almond shaped head. They typically weigh between two - eight pounds for wild adults, possibly more if well fed in good environment. The female is smaller than the male. They have short legs with long, strong, sharp, non-retractable claws used for digging. They dig for bugs and small animals. They eat lots and lots of bugs, all kinds. They eat many bugs and rodents that we consider pests, such as spiders, scorpions, slugs, wasps, bees, grasshoppers, and more. They eat small rodents such as mice, young rats, moles, voles, and such. They can kill and eat snakes, even poisonous ones. Skunks kill their prey by rolling it over and over quickly and continuously with their front paws until the prey is disabled. They are of great benefit to the environment by keeping these other pests in check. They will also eat dead animal carcass though they do prefer to eat fresh. They do eat some plant matter but prefer bugs and meat over veggies. They are less of a threat to your vegetable garden than the cute bunny is. If a skunk is in your garden he is most likely eating the bugs that are destroying your plants.
Average life span for a wild skunk is probably about three years, due to heavy nuisance and vehicle killings. In a perfect environment a healthy skunk may live up to ten years.
Skunks may use other animals' abandoned burrows, such as fox, badgers, rabbits, but they are quite capable of digging their own burrows and do so regularly. They may also sleep in hollow logs, and under rock crevices. They do not hibernate in the winter but may go through periods of dormancy during cold spells. Female skunks may den together through the winter for warmth. The males typically den alone.
Skunks become sexually mature at around nine months old and will produce a litter by the time they are one year old. Mating season begins in February and goes though March. More skunks get hit and killed on the roads during this time of year than any other. You may notice two skunks close together on the roads because of a mating chase that ends abruptly.
Gestation is approximately 63 days, starting baby season in May. Female skunks are capable of a delayed implantation should they choose to mate sooner, this way the young are not born too early. Skunk babies are called kittens. Litters can be from one to ten kittens, with average litter being three to six. Kittens are born bald, blind and deaf and weigh approximately 20 - 24 grams at birth. At one week old they have grown a "painted on" fur. Week two fur is thicker and the head is shaping up. Week three the fur is standing off the body, the babies are starting to try standing and wobbling around, the ears are coming away from the head now. Their eyes and ears typically open between 21 - 28 days, closer to the 28 day mark in my experience with healthy orphans, sooner in weak, ill or stressed orphans. Week four they are toddlers, fully furred, aware and alert of their surroundings.Week five mom will begin taking them out of the den to forage. Kittens follow behind her in a train fashion. They will remain in the den until the kittens are about eight weeks old at which time mom leads them off to another place to spend the fall and winter. Should a female lose a litter for any reason, such as predation or storms, she may mate again to produce another litter. This gives us skunk kittens all through the summer months and into the fall. Otherwise she will only produce one litter a year. Skunks are not monogamous, they do not stay together after mating. The female may mate with more than one male. The male plays no role in raising the litter. In an ideal setting the female kittens may stay with their mother throughout the winter, while the males begin a solitary life in the fall.