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Living Sanibel: The spotted skunk was once trapped heavily for its fur

By Staff | Jul 20, 2016

Eastern spotted skunk. PHOTO BY BOB GRESS

The spotted skunk is roughly half the size of the striped skunk, and like its cousin, it is equipped with a strong, foul-smelling secretion that is sprayed at potential predators accurately at a distance of up to 15 feet. The spotted skunk stores about one tablespoon of the malodorous oil in its glands, making it capable of up to five discharges in a row.

The chemistry of the spotted skunk’s secretion differs from the striped skunk in that it contains several different components, and many people feel that the spray of this smaller animal is even worse than that of the striped skunk. Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can be used to help eliminate the smell should you be unfortunate enough to get sprayed by either skunk species.

The spotted skunk is an agile climber, known to frequent oak trees in search of acorns and other forage. Its primary diet consists of insects, including beetles, cockroaches and grubs, but like its larger cousin, it will eat just about anything-berries, acorns, nuts, birds, rodents, larvae, lizards, snakes and domestic chickens. This skunk gets its nickname, weasel skunk, from its ability to climb and move quickly when attacking small mammals and birds. It is an agile and formidable predator.

The spotted skunk, even more than the striped skunk, was once trapped heavily for its fur. In another example of clever marketing, spotted skunk skins were sold as “marten fur.” Today, most “marten fur” is farm raised, as the spotted skunk is readily domesticated and is a fairly common house pet.

Because of its defensive spray, the spotted skunk is seldom taken by bobcats or coyotes, but it is killed by owls, snakes, and alligators since the smell does not affect any of these predators. The only other mortality comes at the hands of humans, both from vehicle encounters and nuisance trapping.

This is an excerpt from The Living Gulf Coast – A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.