Young Striped Skunks

For nearly twenty years striped skunks (Mephitis metphitis) have lived under the bunk house just outside our front door (Modoc County CA). It has been  peaceful relationship with no odiforous moments. Leonard and I like our resident skunks – they are cute. Although I must admit that some of our friends are less than enthusiastic about our little friends. I posted pictures of two skunks eating our cats’ food on the back deck on February 2nd.

About a week ago this year’s young skunks appeared from under the bunk house. Skunks use any type of cavity for a nest, including under buildings. After a February or March mating, the liter arrives following about a 51 day gestation period. The young, born naked, blind and helpless, nurse and are in the grass nest six or seven weeks before venturing out into the world. During the time that the babies are in the nest the male is not with his family, only returning in July after the young are older.

A majority of a skunk’s diet is surface dwelling insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles. They also use their large, long, non-retractable foreclaws to turn over stones or root for other insects, grubs or plant material. Rats, mice, reptiles, amphibians, fruits and berries round out their diet. When we begin to see pits in the lawn from their digging we know the young skunks are weaned.

The young skunks and their parents will remain around the bunk house for about two weeks, coming out each night to feed. Then suddenly ALL the skunks will disappear for about a month. As fall approaches Leonard and I will again see a single pair of skunks dragging grass under the bunk house in preparation for the winter. We often speculate where the family goes and why. Our best guess is that the parents take the youngsters far from their nest and leave the young skunks to begin their own families. Any other ideas? 

This year there are three young skunks. Here they are playing between our front entrance and the bunk house. Their cavity hole is directly under the bunk house door threshold. In one picture, all but one of which I took standing in our front doorway, a skunk is going into the nest cavity.

Leonard and I will enjoy the family for a couple more days until they all depart.

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