The spotted skunk is a smaller relative of the common striped skunk, measuring about 14-18 inches in length and weighing between ½ pound and 1½ pounds. There are two species of spotted skunks in the U.S. The eastern species (Spilogale putorius) occurs throughout the Midwest and Gulf Coast states and in the Appalachian mountain region. The western species (Spilogale gracilis) is found in the Southwest, from west Texas and up through most of Colorado, Wyoming, parts of Montana, and extending west to the Pacific coast and into Mexico.

This small skunk is has a black body with four longitudinal white stripes extending down the back, white stripes along each side, and white spots on the rump. The tail is about 4-6 inches, and very bushy. The tip of the black tail is white, whereas the eastern spotted skunk has an all-black tail.

They live in a variety of habitats, from brushy wooded areas providing lots of cover to croplands and open areas, but rocky bluffs and hillsides are favorites. They are proficient at digging and able to climb into vegetation. They are very active, appearing similar in behavior to large weasels, and in game camera videos they seem to scamper around from place to place much more than the rather sedate striped skunk. Being omnivorous and nocturnal, spotted skunks feed on most anything they can find or capture, like insects and other invertebrates, small mammals, birds and eggs, amphibians and small reptiles, as well as a variety of grains and fruits. They do not hibernate but will take refuge during the coldest weather, when they rely on stored fat reserves to survive.

Spotted skunks threaten by rearing up on their front legs and arching the rear end over their heads, enabling them to spray forward in the same direction they are facing. The paired musk glands are located in the anal region and are able to produce a directed spray at an opponent. They are very bold and seemingly unafraid of other species. I have seen them chase gray foxes and the foxes readily retreat from the much smaller skunks. They have few natural predators, with great-horned owls and perhaps golden eagles being among the most probable.

Spotted skunks mate in early fall but embryos remain dormant over the winter, only implanting in the uterus in spring. Young are born naked and helpless (altricial) in May. They mature rapidly and females become sexually mature at 4-5 months. While spotted skunks have been reported to live to nearly 10 years in captivity, longevity in the wild is probably much lower.

While uncommon and seldom seen in their nocturnal forays, spotted skunks are adaptable to many ecological conditions, and the population is considered stable by conservation organizations, though the population in west Texas is thought to be declining by biologists there. Individuals photographed here were captured on game cameras by James Taulman in the rocky scrubland habitat of South Mountain in Cedar Grove.

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