Find the best places to hunt Skunks in Canada and discover the Skunks' Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Provinces with Skunk Hunting

Province / Territory

Species

Season

Nunavut

Not Present

 

Northwest Territories

Not Present

 

Yukon

Not Present

 

British Columbia

Present

No Season

Alberta

Present

Season Available 

Saskatchewan

Present

 

Manitoba

Present

 

Ontario

Present

Season Available 

Quebec

Present

 

New Brunswick

Present

 

Nova Scotia

Present

 

Prince Edward Island

Present

 

Newfoundland

Not Present

 

Striped Skunk -Mephitis mephitis

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Striped Skunk:

Striped Skunk Range Map of Canada

Striped Skunk Range Map of Canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

There are eight members of the skunk family in North America but only the Western Spotted skunk and the Striped skunk are native to Canada. The striped skunk can be found all the provinces except Newfoundland and none of the territories.

The Striped skunk likes to dwell in semi-open areas or on the edge of a forest. But it can inhabit most any type of habitat from forests, wooded ravines, grassy plains, and deserts and like the racoon it can inhabit urban or rural areas.  And farmland with its abundant food supply and good cover can prove to be a magnet that attracts the Striped skunk.

For some reason this species does tend to prefer elevations from sea level to 5905 ft. (1800 m.) above sea level although occurrences at 13780 ft. (4,200 m) have been recorded.

They will normally dwell within two miles of a water source. Dens can be located under a rock, stump, log, or even under a house porch or in a cellar. It will at times alter or take over another animals’ den such as those of a woodchuck or fox.

Dens that are claimed from another animal may be quite elaborate with multiple entrances and many tunnels and chambers. However, a den dug from scratch by a skunk will normally be quite plain with no extra tunnels, entrances or chambers. It will in any event, create a single chamber for itself that is lined with leaves.

The normal size of Striped Skunks home range is 0.69 to 1.9 sq. mi. (1.8 to 4.8/km²) but under extraordinary circumstances can be as high as 7.1 sq. mi. (18.5/km²).

Description of Striped Skunk:

 Striped Skunk

Striped Skunk
Photo by: Dan Dzurisin – Flickr

The striped skunk is a non-migratory, non-hibernating mammal that does not actually hibernate over the course of the winter. Instead its metabolism slows down and it will remain in its den and becomes dormant. In this semi-active stare it eats very little and sleeps a lot.

The striped skunk may not be the largest member of the skunk family but it is the heaviest and is much the same size as a domestic cat. It has a small head, small ears, short legs, and a long, bushy tail. Their five toed claws are longer on the front feet to aid in digging mouse burrows, ripping apart tree stumps in search of grubs and larvae and digging for turtle eggs. Finally its dental formula is I 3/3, C 1/1, P 3/3, M 1/2.

Colourization is quite simple. Give the animal an all black Body, head, tail, legs, feet and eyes. Put a thin white stripe from its nose to just between its eyes. Now start with a large white strip on top of its head (just above the eyes) and extend that stripe to the back of its neck. Now split that stripe into two and runs it down each side of its body and out onto the tip of its tail. That is basically it. Some members may have different shading and or patches of white on the tail.

There are a couple of differences between male and female Striped Skunks. Female members have longer tails and male members are about 15% larger than females. In general their body length is 22.6 to 31.5 ins. (57.5 to 80 cm) and the length of their tail is 6.8 to 12 ins.(17.3 to 30.7 cm.) long. The weight of this species will range from 2.65 to 11.7 lbs. (1.2 to 5.3 Kg.). It should also be noted that the Striped Skunk can suffer a reduction in its body mass over the course of a winter that can be up to 47.7% in males and 50.1% in females.

The skunk’s primary channels of communication seem to be ones of visual, auditory, and chemical reactions. Its first reaction is to stamp its front feet or walk on its front feet with its tail held erect.. It may then emit sounds that will range from a low growl or hiss to warn the perceived threat. When all is lost, and only as a last resort, it will arches its back and turns in a U-shaped fashion so that both its head and tail face the threat. It will then emit a foul smelling liquid from its scent glands that are located in two glands near the base of its tail.

The liquid that the skunk discharges is a thick, yellow, oily fluid and comes from glands that are located at the base of the tail and on either side of the anus. These glands are about the size of a grape and contains about a tablespoon of fluid. That is enough liquid for the skunk to spray five or six times. Because this liquid has a slow recovery rate (about one-third of an ounce per week), the act of discharging is used only as a last desperate measure of defence by the skunk.

The skunk’s fluid comes out in a fine spray and is quite accurate up to 9.8 ft. (3m.). The spray can travel as far as 19.7 ft. (6 m.). This liquid is potent enough to be smelt up to 0.62 mi. (1 km.) away and if you are close enough it can cause your eyes to water, temporary blindness, and you may even get nauseous.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources suggests the following recipe in order to get rid of a skunk’s odour:

  • 1 l hydrogen peroxide 
  • 50 ml baking soda 
  • 5 ml dishwashing liquid 

The Skunks seems to have a perception of the power of their odour and refrains from scenting on themselves, in confined spaces, and their dens.

A wild Striped Skunk does not have a good life expectancy as upwards of 90% of them will perish by the end of their first winter due to predation, weather conditions and infectious diseases. The average lifespan may then reach 2 to 3 years of age with an upper limit of 6 to 7 years.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Striped Skunk:

Striped skunks are an opportunistic omnivorous predatory feeder that eats a wide variety of foods. Their diet will vary according to the season, geographic location, and foraging material availability.

It will feed on birds, bird’s eggs, insects, Vertebrates, Invertebrates, small mammals, aquatic crustaceans (like the northern Clearwater crayfish), fish, carrion and plant material. However foraging tactics will change as required.

In most areas, skunks consume mainly insects and mammals during the spring and summer with insects making up to 70% of its diet. However, when these insects are not available in the early spring or in the late fall they will shift their foraging strategy to small mammals, birds, or vegetation.

As insect availability drops during the fall and winter months their diet shifts to plant and animal matter of which they consume about equal amounts.

Birds

The skunk will prey on ground nesting birds such as Canada geese, Mottled ducks, American widgeons, American coots, Belted kingfishers, American yellow warblers, and House finches. It is looking primarily for birds’ eggs but will take young birds and injured birds if opportunity arises.

Insects

The skunk is particularly fond of grasshoppers. However other insects like crickets, beetles, insect larvae spiders, white grubs, army worms, cutworms and social insects such as wasps, bees and ants are targeted.

The skunk is not immune to is resistant to bee venom and it relies on its thick fur to protect it from the bee’s stings. Its method of attack is to scratches at the front of the beehive and then consumes the guard bees that emerge from the hive. It does this by knocking the bees out of the air with their front paws and then consuming them.

Small Mammals

Opportunity is the key for taking small mammals such as moles, voles, mice (deer mice and White-footed mice), rats, Shrews, ground squirrels, and rabbits. Again the young in nests are an easy target.

Plant Material

As seasonal crops comes into play. The skunk will forage on seeds, grains, corn nuts, wild fruits, berries, grass, leaves, blackberries, raspberries, black cherries and blueberries.

Vertebrates and Invertebrates        

It is interesting to note that the skunk will eat a snake and that they are immune to rattlesnake venom. Other species in this category that will be eaten as opportunity arises are Western chorus frogs, Red-backed salamanders, Common snapping turtles, Pond slider turtles, five-lined skinks, Butler's garter snakes, Ring-necked snakes, Milk snakes, snails, earthworms

Additional Notes

The usual foraging routine for a Skunk is to be on the prowl starting in the late afternoon or evening and to continue foraging through the night. However, a skunk can be encountered at anytime of the day.

Foraging activity is typically within 2625 ft. (800 m) of its den. However, night time ventures may be as high as 1.24 mi (2 km).

Breeding and Reproduction of the Striped Skunk:

Pair of Striped Skunks

Pair of Striped Skunks
Photo by USFWS - Flicker

The striped skunks mating season occurs only once in the year and that time period begins in mid -February and may continue until mid-April with skunks at higher latitudes being delayed. This coincides with the period of time that they come out of their dens.

The skunk is considered to be polygamous in its breeding habits because males will breed will multiple females if they are given the opportunity but the females will only breed with one male. That is, unless they loose their litter or in the case of yearling females that did not catch the first time. In both cases, female skunks may come into estrus again and mate again. Females that have already mated become aggressive towards male skunks and will show their aggressiveness with vocalizations, stamping of their feet, and fighting.

The mating cycle actually starts in January when the males' testicles begin to swell but it is not until March that they reach their maximum size. It is in this time frame that males begin to search out receptive females and may travel 2.5 miles (4 km) per night in and effort to do so.

Males approach estrous females from the rear and will the area of her genitals.  He may then grab the back of her neck, mount her and begin the act of copulation. The act of copulation typically lasts only one minute and the female will not allow any more acts of copulations and will fight off any male that tries to do so.

The females’ gestation period is about 59–77 days after a period of delayed implantation that can last up to 19 days. That means that the litters of young skunks are being born in April to June of the year. But early May is the most common time period.

Litters typically consist of four to seven young (average is 5) but litters of two to 10 have been recorded. The young are altricial in that they are born blind, deaf and almost hairless.  The average weight of a newborn striped skunk is about 1.18 oz. (33.5 g.) and their black and white stripe pattern is visible at birth.

The young develop fairly rapidly in that the newborn is capable of spraying by day eight. They will have all their hair at about day 13 days, their eyes open in 17 to 21 days and their ears will open soon after that.

The mother skunk will nurse her young in the natal dens until they are weaned which is about 42–56 days. It is also about this time that they are taken on food hunting excursions with their mother. Males typically become totally independent of their mother at 2.5 months. The females may also be independent at this time but they tend to stay with their mother and winter den with her until the next spring.

Both male and female members of this species reach reproductive maturity at the age of 10 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Status of Striped Skunk

The Striped Skunk was listed on the Red List as a species of least concern (2008). Justification for this listing status is because its population appears to be on the rise, a wide distribution in a variety of habitats, and no known major threats.

Land based predators like mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, wolves and American badgers may periodically prey on a striped skunk but for the most part leave them alone. Larger threats of prey come from aerial based predators like great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, and bald eagles, This is because birds of prey have a poor-to-nonexistent sense of smell. Owls in particular are their largest threat because they share the same night time periods of activity. 

Western Spotted Skunk - Spilogale gracilis

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Western Spotted Skunk:

Western Spotted Skunk Range Map of Canada

 Western Spotted Skunk Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

There are eight members of the skunk family in North America but only the Western Spotted skunk and the Striped skunk are native to Canada. The Western Spotted skunk can be found in the south west corner of British Columbia on the mainland.

This non-migrating species of skunk can live in close proximity to humans and make use of rock fence lines and vacant building spaces. In an all natural environment it will inhabit rocky outcroppings, woodland thickets, and canyon walls.

Like the striped skunk it too will make its den near water and may make it in a stump, hollow log, rock crevice, or under urban structures. They are more than capable of digging out a den on their own but preference is given to taking over the previous dwelling of a ground squirrel, wood rat, pocket gopher, or striped skunk.

Dens are located in such a manner as to minimize the light level in order to be completely dark. Male members of the species tend to dwell alone but females are more sociable in that they will share their dens with other female skunks of the same species. Interestingly enough, even western spotted skunks with litters of young will share their den with other females as long as they too have litters of kits.  

Description of Western Spotted Skunk:

Western Spotted Skunk

Western Spotted Skunk
Photo Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=697946

Typically the Western Spotted Skunk is active all year and unlike its cousin the striped skunk is seldom seen during daylight hours as it is more nocturnal.

Physically the Western Spotted Skunk is smaller than the striped skunk and male members of the species are 6% larger than females. Males will have an overall length of 13.78 to 22.9 in. (35 to 58.1 cm.) and will weigh somewhere from 0.74 to 1.62 lbs. (336 to 734 g). While a female will only weigh from 0.5 to 1.06 lbs. (227 to 482 g) and an overall length of 12.6 to 18.5 ins. (32 to 47 cm.). In both cases the tail may be 3.9 to 6.3 in. (10 to 16 cm) in length.

The hearing of the Western Spotted skunk is sharp but they do not possess good vision. The ears of this species of skunk are short and rounded and it has a long-haired tail. Each foot has five toes but the claws of its front feet are more than twice as long as its hind feet and have more curvature.

Colouring of this species of skunk like the striped skunk starts with an all black long haired fury body. A single short cream white stripe runs down the centre line of its face from just behind its nose to above its eyes. The first sets of stripes consist of a pair of symmetrical stripes start from behind its eyes and in front of its ears and run continuously down its side to just behind its front legs. Another pair of symmetrical stripes above the first stripe start on top of its head behind its ears and run lengthwise down its back to just behind its front legs. Now a third stripe this time below the first stripe starts at the rear of its front legs and runs under the first stripe and then curves upward back of the finishing point of the first two stripes. It all of these stripes were not enough we need another stripe from the knees of its rear legs upwards onto its rear end. A couple more white spots are evident on each side of its rear end rump and two more at the base of its tail.. Then finish off its tail with half of the underside being white along with the tip.

Like other members of the skunk family this species of skunk has scent glands located inside the anus that are capable of spraying a foul musky odour. The liquid musk is similar to that of other skunks but in the Western Spotted skunks case it contains an additional chemical called “2-phenylethanethiol” and is missing some of the chemicals produced by the other species. These differences, in chemical composition, give the western spotted skunk musk a sharper strong or smell.

It too, when it perceives a threat, will stamp its front feet and then if the threat persists will raising its hind end in the air and walk on its front feet thus displaying its warning.

Not much data is available for the Spotted skunks life expectancy. However notes indicate that about half of the skunks in the wild only survive 1 or 2 years. And captive Western spotted skunks have survived almost ten years.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Western Spotted Skunk:

The Western Spotted Skunk has a good sense of smell that helps it to forage on plant and animal matter and as such is considered to be an omnivore.

Animal matter may consist of bird’s eggs (domestic or wild), young animals, insects, rodents, small birds, reptiles, and amphibians

Plant matter may be fruit, berries, and roots.

This mixed diet will change with the season and as food becomes readily availabile. 

 

Breeding and Reproduction of the Western Spotted Skunk:

The Western Spotted Skunk male’s testes begin to enlarge and produce sperm starting in May of the year. However, it is not until September that they are at the peak of sperm production. This coincides with the time period in which females of the species come into heat.

Most available males and females will mate in September and October. This species has a long delayed implantation period in that the female will carry the egg in a blastocyst stage until April before she implants it in her uterine wall. This gives this species a gestation period (including delayed implantation) of 230 to 250 days.

The embryos now will only take about one month to develop and she will generally produce an altricial litter of 2 to 6 kits in May. Like the Striped skunk the kits are born blind and almost hairless. They will weigh about 0.39 oz. (11 g.) at birth.

Females members of the species will become sexually mature at about 4 or 5 months of age.

Status of Western Spotted Skunk

The Western Spotted Skunk was listed on the Red List as a species of least concern (2008). Justification for this listing status is because it has a wide distribution in a variety of habitats. It does show signs of population decline but it is not at a rate that is considered to be a threat.

Major threats for this species of skunk come from human use of pesticides and predation.

The Golden eagle, great horned owl, and bobcat are a few of their predators.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_spotted_skunk

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_skunk

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Striped_skunk

http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/striped-skunk.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammals_of_Canada

http://eol.org/pages/328593/details

http://eol.org/pages/310363/details

Background Images

  • Striped Skunk  – Dan Dzurisin – Flickr

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