Eastern spotted skunks and their stinky dance are quite a show. Photo credit – National Wildlife Federation
Smoky Mountain Eastern Spotted Skunks give fair warning and provide some interesting acrobatics just before sending out a cloud of noxious spray. When frightened, or angered, the Eastern Spotted Skunk engages in unique behaviors that serves as either a bluff or a warning just prior to discharging a very unwelcome aromatic spritz. This species, the smaller of the two skunks that make their home in the park, will stomp its front feet in rapid succession on the ground. Perhaps, even more unusual, the skunk may also perform a handstand on its front feet and walk while holding its tail in the air just before aiming and spraying. So, if you encounter either of these behaviors, you have had been forewarned!
Watch out for the spotted skunk when you visit the Smokies! Photo credit – KWCH
Eastern Spotted Skunks are nocturnal and active year-round. Excellent climbers, these skunks are more agile and alert than their striped counterparts, and feed primarily on small mammals, fruits, insects, birds, lizards, snakes, and carrion. The breed is easily distinguished from its Pepe LePew-looking cousin. Weighing in at under three pounds, it has black silky fur, a white triangular spot on the forehead, a white spot under each ear, and four to six undulating white stripes along the neck, back, and sides. White patches are also present on the rump, and a bushy 6-8-inch tail sports a broad white tip. Hunters often trap the species for its’ unique fur. The Eastern Spotted Skunk’s range includes Northeastern Mexico through the Great Plains to the Canadian border, and the Southeastern United States north to Pennsylvania.
Eastern Spotted Skunks are somewhat reclusive. Favorite habitats include young forested areas with dense understories (in order to escape detection from owls, one of their main predators) agricultural lands, crevices, cliffs and rock slides. Dens may also be found in underground burrows, beneath farm buildings and in hollow logs.
Spotted skunks have litters of two to six young and are born in the den during May or June. Newborn skunk’s eyes and ears are closed and covered with fine hair that replicates the adult color pattern. Their eyes open between 30 and 32 days, and the first solid food is eaten at about 42 days, and the young usually reach full growth in about three months. Breeding occurs at one year.
Life expectancy in the wild for spotted skunks is unknown, although a captive skunk lived almost 10 years.
Spotted skunk habitat in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Blount County; Cades Cove.
Sevier County; Park headquarters (1,500 feet); Sugarlands ; Chimneys Picnic Area; Greenbrier Cove. (2,900 feet.)
Haywood County; Cataloochee; Big Creek (2,800 feet); Walnut Bottom, near the mouth of Mouse creek (2,800 feet.)
Swain County; Twentymile area (1,400 feet) and Forney Creek