Skunks are legendary for their powerful predator-deterrent—a hard-to-remove, horrible-smelling spray. A skunk's spray is an oily liquid produced by glands under its large tail. To employ this scent bomb, a skunk turns around and blasts its foe with a foul mist that can travel as far as ten feet (three meters).
Skunk spray causes no real damage to its victims, but it sure makes them uncomfortable. It can linger for many days and defy attempts to remove it. As a defensive technique, the spray is very effective. Predators typically give skunks a wide berth unless little other food is available.
There are many different kinds of skunks. They vary in size (most are house cat-sized) and appear in a variety of striped, spotted, and swirled patterns but all are a vivid black-and-white that makes them easily identifiable and may alert predators to their pungent potential.
Skunks usually nest in burrows constructed by other animals, but they also live in hollow logs or even abandoned buildings. In colder climates, some skunks may sleep in these nests for several weeks of the chilliest season.
Skunks are usually active at night. Skunks are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animal and vegetable substances. They may be attracted by insects commonly found in lawns, fruit trees, gardens, or wherever food scraps are kept. They will den in vacant armadillo or gopher tortoise burrows (though they can dig their own) or brush piles, wood piles, areas with high grass, and similar sources of shelter.
Female skunks generally give birth to a litter of 4-7 babies in the spring. Newborns are blind and have very fine hair with the same black and white pattern as they would have as adults. When they are about six weeks old, the young follow their mother on food forays, searching for small mammals, insects, bird eggs, and amphibians, as well as roots, seeds, fruit and other plant parts. The mother and young stay together for several months, emerging from their underground burrows at night.