Although most of the United States has only four species of skunks, Texas has five! The ‘hooded skunk’ is considered a Mexican native but can be found in some areas of Texas close to the border; this one you will probably never meet! The others are the spotted, striped and two species of the hog-nosed skunk. The striped skunk is the one that is the most common and most recognized by humans. They are about the size of a house cat, weighing about 8 pounds and are marked with the lateral white stripes down their backs. They have feet and claws that are designed for digging, which they use to dig burrows as well as dig for insects and grubs. Given their diet they are natural pest management critters eating a variety of insects as well as rats and mice. 70% of a skunk’s diet consists of insects that are actually considered to be harmful to humans! The biggest enemies of these critters are automobiles and the great horned owls. Skunks are active year round and do not hibernate, but will den together during very cold weather to keep warm. Females give birth to normally one litter per season having four to six babies, but they have been known to have up to ten, although five is the average, around May and June. The young will stay with their mothers until the fall and then they are on their own. Life expectancy in captivity is ten years, but in the wild they live an average of three years.
Interestingly skunks are a fairly gentle critter that use a number of warning signs to thwart off intruders before they deploy the only real ammunition they have; spray! They can spray accurately up to 15 feet, and will rarely bite; probably because once sprayed, who or what would continue onward! Skunks can get along well with cats and have been known to enter a home with the cat through a pet door to share food and then find a nice dark, quiet closet to take a nap! Imagine finding your cat’s friend napping in the closet! As long as they do not feel threatened they will not spray. Normally these critters do not pose a problem to humans, except that they have become well adapted to neighborhoods, digging dens in basement crawl spaces, under sheds, as well as under wood piles! Unfortunately skunks are primary vectors of rabies, but pets are more at risk for getting bitten due to their curious nature. If you should see a skunk out and about during the day acting a bit aggressive it is a good idea to stay away. Getting sprayed is something that you will most likely never forget, but it you are sprayed in the eyes it can cause temporary blindness!
If you are having a problem with uninvited skunks at your house it is best to call an expert to assist with removal and relocation. If the sightings are in the summer months, there may very well be little ones in the den, so it is best for all that a professional is called, if the little ones are left without mom, unfortunately they will not make it and the chances of smelling things up is really high! There may be special laws and codes that are in place for these critters so it is best to be safe than sorry.