Eastern Spotted Skunk

Common Name - Eastern Spotted Skunk

Category - Mammals

ScientificName - Spilogale putorius

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Carnivora

Family - Mustelidae

Genus - Spilogale

Species - putorius


Description - Black fur with white patches that may look like stripes or spots; the hair on the tail is longer than the hair on the body; 4 to 6 broken white body stripes in varying patterns; 5 toes on each foot; front claws are sharpand may be twice the length of the back claws; 34 teeth; spotted skunks are overall about half the size of a striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis); striped skunks have white stripes that start at the neck and a tail intermixed with black and white, whereas the spotted skunk has a white triangle-shaped spot on the forehead (and sometimes in front of each ear) and white-tipped tail

Size - Total length: 11.7 – 21.5 in.(30.0 – 55.0 cm) long; tail length: 6.4 – 8.6 in. (16.5 – 22.0 cm) long; hind foot length: 1.7 – 2.0 in.(4.3 – 5.2 cm) long; weight: 0.7 – 2.8 lb. (0.3 – 1.3 kg)

Ecological Role - Since insects are the spotted skunk’s primary source of food, spotted skunks play an important role in insect control. Because of their size, great horned owls are the primary predators of both adult and juvenile spotted skunks. Domestic dogs and cats are also predators. Spotted skunks can be hunted for their pelts.

Fun Facts - The spotted skunk is the only member of the skunk family that is able to climb trees and fences. When threatened, spotted skunks will often exhibit a foot-stamping behavior. Foot stamping often occurs in connection with doing a handstand. The handstand is in preparation for spraying. The spotted skunk has a sharper and more obnoxious fluid than does the striped skunk (expelled from its anal gland). Although obnoxious, the spray is not medically harmful unless it gets in your eyes. If it gets in your eyes, you may experience temporary blindness.

The spotted skunk is strictly nocturnal, returning to its den before sunrise and not leaving the den until after sunset.

When opening eggs, spotted skunks will straddle the egg and attempt to open it by biting.

Food - Spotted skunks are omnivores. Primary food source is insects particularly beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets in summer and fall; also eat other animals (mice, rabbits, birds) during winter and spring; fruits (berries) and vegetables (corn) whenever available.

Cover - Hollow logs, snags, stumps, skunk-made underground dens or abandoned underground dens made by other species, grass and leaves are used to cushion nests.


Breeding - Late winter and early spring; males tend to wander in search of females; courtship behaviors include a short chase; females average 1 litter per year but may have 2 litters per year; gestation is 50 – 70 days


Habitat - Forests, forest edges, open prairies, bushy areas, farmland, rugged terrain, cliff crevices

Kentucky Distribution - Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky including Bell, Elliott, and McCreary Counties

Life Cycle

Life Span

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes - The spotted skunk does not migrate nor hibernate. They do, however, prefer underground burrows during winter where they may share the site with other skunks and even raccoons (Procyon lotor) or opossums (Didelphis virginiana). 


Status - Less common than striped skunk; no special listing


Voice - Churring, hissing, growling when threatened

Young - 2 – 6 (average 5) young born between April and July; hairless when born but soon showing very fine hairs which display black and white pattern; weigh about 3.5 oz. (10 g); born blind; eyes open after 30 days; walk and play around 36 days; leave mother around 2 months; may become reproductive at 11 months; expected life span in captivity is about 6 years but only 2 years in the wild

What We Can Do - Routinely check for openings and crawl spaces and get them repaired as soon as possible. Spotted skunks are good climbers, they may take residence in our attics, on our porches, and just about anywhere that provides sufficient shelter.

Make sure garbage can lids are secure. Spotted skunks are capable of eating a variety of food items and may get into garbage.

Remember when dealing with the spotted skunk, that it will spray when threatened.


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

Contributed By - Eastern Kentucky University Chapter of The Wildlife Society

Website - http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/