Skunks - Wildlife


Striped skunks are members of the weasel family. Skunks are black with two white stripes down the back and a bushy black tail. Skunks are up to up to 29 inches long and weigh 5 to 8 pounds. Males are larger than females. Skunks have long claws on their front feet for digging. 


Skunks pose little threat to humans, their property or pets. Skunks are naturally shy animals. Skunks are primarily active at night and move slowly while searching for food. Skunks live in dens, hollow logs, or burrows with multiple chambers. Skunks can use abandoned burrows or dig their own burrow.

Skunks breed in February to March. Gestation is 7 to 10 weeks. Young are born in May and June and weaned in October and November. Four to seven young are born per litter. About six weeks after they are born, Young skunks can begin hunting with their mother when they are 6 weeks old.

Skunks are not social but may den together in winter for warmth. Skunks do not have a true hibernation but are dormant for several of the coldest weeks in winter.  

Skunks defend themselves by spraying a strong-smelling liquid (oil) from special anal glands. The smell is difficult to remove from skin, fur, or clothes. Skunks only spray as a last resort when threatened or frightened. A skunk will first face its attacker, arch its tail and chatter its teeth.

Skunks have few predators, other than birds of prey and foxes. Birds have no sense of smell.


Skunks are omnivores. A natural diet primarily consists of insects, especially beetles and grubs, small rodents, crayfish, snails, slugs, salamanders, frogs, bird eggs, turtle eggs, fish, small snakes, wild berries, grass, and nuts. A modified diet can include pet food, garden plants, bird seed, and recycling or trash items.


Skunks inhabit woodlands, grassy fields, wetlands and riparian areas, including rivers and streams, and suburban areas of Fairfax County.


For information on managing wildlife interactions and resolving human-wildlife conflicts, the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline is available toll-free at (855) 571-9003, 8:00AM-4:30PM, Monday through Friday.This helpline is a collaborative effort between the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services.

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