Morning Skunk

Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

Photographer Phil Rowntree, whose work will be familiar to many readers of this blog, saw this striped skunk at about 9:30 in the morning on the lower passage of the Native Plant Area. The skunk paid Phil little attention, but indicated annoyance at an off-leash dog roaming in the area without a visible owner. The dog had sense enough not to investigate more closely. The skunk soon disappeared down a dark passage in the shrubbery.

This is only the second recent skunk sighting in the park to my knowledge. I photographed one in July 2018 not far from the location where this one was observed.

Some thirteen subspecies of skunk are generally recognized, according to Wikipedia. This one is probably a California skunk, Mephitis mephitis occidentalis. It’s a large variety, similar to the Northern Plains skunk, but with a longer tail and a narrower skull.

Place Names trivia alert: “The English word skunk has two root words of Algonquian and Iroquoian origin, specifically seganku (Abenaki) and scangaresse (Huron).[10][11] The Cree and Ojibwe word shee-gawk is the root word for Chicago, which means ‘skunk-land’.” — Wikipedia.

Also worth remembering: “Like all skunks, the striped skunk possesses two highly developed scent glands, one on each side of the anus, containing about 15 milliliters of musk each,[13] which provides a chemical defense against predation.[14] This oily, yellow-colored musk consists of a mixture of powerfully odorous thiols (sulfur analogues of alcohols, in older sources called “mercaptans”), which can be sprayed at a distance of several meters…. If sprayed on the eyes, this compound can cause a temporary burning sensation.[10]

A timely memo: “The striped skunk is polygamous, and normally breeds once a year, though yearling females who have failed to mate may enter a second estrous cycle a month after the first. The mating season usually occurs between mid-February to mid-April, though it is delayed at higher latitudes. Prior to copulating, the males’ testicles swell during the January–February period, with maximum size being attained in March. Males during this period will cover much ground in their search for females, sometimes covering 4 km (2.5 mi) per night.[10]

When a male locates a female, he will approach her from the rear and lick her genitals, then bite her on the nape before copulating. A single male may have a harem of several females, which he mates with and defends against other males for a period of about 35 days. Once the mating period has finished, the impregnated females confine themselves to their dens, while the males attempt to rebuild their fat reserves.[10]

The gestation period lasts around 59–77 days, with kits being born at about mid-May to early June. Litters generally consist of 2–12 kits, though a litter of 18 is known from Pennsylvania. Kits are born blind and sparsely furred, weighing 25–40 grams. The eyes open after around three weeks, and are weaned after 42–56 days.[10] Although their musk is still undeveloped, kits of this age will instinctively assume the defensive stand position when threatened.[11] At this point, the kits may accompany their mother outside the den, becoming independent after 2½ months.[10]

More about them: Wikipedia Smithsonian National Geographic

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2 thoughts on “Morning Skunk

  • Pingback: Weeds Begone

  • hi Marty, I appreciate you trying to improve the website. However, FYI, i have to tell you that when i clicked on the link in the email, it does not open to today’s blogpost. I had to search for skunk in the search bar.
    But as usual, i love it!
    Glad to see there’s at least one skunk in the park.
    cheers.

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