Skunk Definition

Learn all about skunks, from their physical characteristics to their behavior as pests. Discover how skunks are classified and find out interesting statistics and case studies.

What is a Skunk?

A skunk is a small mammal known for its distinct black and white coloration as well as its ability to spray a foul-smelling liquid as a defense mechanism. These animals belong to the family Mephitidae and are native to the Americas.

Physical Characteristics

  • Skunks have a bushy tail, short legs, and sharp claws.
  • They can weigh anywhere from 2 to 14 pounds and measure 8 to 19 inches in length.


Skunks are nocturnal creatures that are primarily solitary. They are omnivores and feed on insects, small mammals, fruits, and plants. When threatened, a skunk will raise its tail and spray a noxious liquid from glands near its anus.

Skunk Classification

Skunks are classified into four main species: the striped skunk, spotted skunk, hog-nosed skunk, and hooded skunk. The striped skunk is the most common type found in North America.

Skunks as Pests

Skunks are known to invade human habitats in search of food, shelter, and mating opportunities. They can cause damage to property and carry diseases such as rabies. Skunk removal and control services are often required to deal with infestations.

Skunk Case Studies

In 2017, a suburb in Illinois experienced a skunk infestation that led to multiple residents being sprayed. The local wildlife control authority was called in to address the issue and safely remove the skunks from the area.

Skunk Statistics

  • There are an estimated 10 million skunks in the United States.
  • Skunks have a lifespan of 2 to 4 years in the wild.
  • The average litter size for skunks is 4 to 7 kits.

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