Spots, Stripes and Everything Nice

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Striped Skunk is a current patient at CROW after being found orphaned and underweight.

Driving down the road, taking in the scenery, and feeling the brisk air when a musky scent that can only be explained as a cross between ammonia and rotten eggs fills the interior of the car. Although pungent and unpleasant, the familiar odor is easily identifiable as that of a skunk. That is unless you are one out of every 1,000 lucky individuals that has an insensitivity to the particular skunk musk rendering you unable to detect the stench. The scent of a skunk is its go to defense mechanism used to ward off would be predators. Beyond the unpleasant smell, skunk spray does no real damage to its victims.

Due to the smell, skunks have a bad reputation even though they have a docile and passive nature, only displaying the defensive behavior when threatened. There are two different species of skunk that reside throughout Florida with the exception of the Keys area; the familiar striped skunk and the smaller eastern spotted skunk. The striped skunk is about the size of a small housecat. It has two broad white stripes that run the length of the body to the tail and a narrow white stripe down the center of the face. The spotted skunk is much smaller and is mainly black with a series of broken up stripes presenting as elongated spots with a white downward-pointing pyramid on the forehead. There are two subspecies of the spotted skunk that are both similar in appearance; the Appalachian and the Florida spotted skunk.

Spotted skunks prefer forests thick with vegetation where their patterns provide camouflague from predators. Striped skunks will inhabit areas with a mixture of dense vegetation and open land, but prefer areas with large dead trees. Both species can be found in residential areas where they may take refuge under man-made structures like sheds. Striped and spotted skunks have effective claws for digging their own burrows and foraging for food.

The striped and spotted skunks have a seasonal diet which includes small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, fruits, grasses, fungus, and a variety of garden dwelling insects like beetles and crickets. As scavengers, they will consume animal carcasses which keeps our ecosystems free of carrion that can transmit disease. Skunks are efficient rodent catchers and have been proven helpful in insect control making them desireable residents in agricultural areas.

Typically, striped skunks have one litter consisting of six to eight kits during late spring. In the wild, kits are weaned at two months and are taught how to forage for food.

On December 9, a female striped skunk was admitted to CROW. Further examination revealed that the patient was a quiet, but otherwise apparently healthy, orphan. The striped skunk was given supportive care and placed in an outdoor enclosure where she could grow and learn. Rehabbers have been monitoring the patient’s behavioral progress while offering a variety of worms, digging boxes, and natural environment enrichment to encourage foraging. The goal is to help the patient learn survival skills that mom would normally teach her in the wild.

As of the rehabbers most recent update, the young skunk is doing very well. She has gained weight and is now at 1.56 kilograms, a big improvement from her intake weight of just 490 grams. As she continues to master foraging skills, the team is confident she will be ready for release once she has reached a weight of two kilograms.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (1/7 – 1/14):
There were 27 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including six eastern cottontails, three laughing gulls, two red-shouldered hawks, two royal terns, a gopher tortoise, a white ibis, and a boat-tailed grackle. Recent Releases include a black scoter, a cattle egret, a Florida softshell turtle, and a Cooper’s hawk. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases! Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year! Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

Leave a Comment

We are interested in articulate, well-informed remarks that are relevant to the article. We welcome your advice, your criticism and your unique insights into the issues of the day. To be approved for publication, your comments should be civil and avoid name-calling. It may take up to 24 hours for your comment to appear, if it is approved.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.