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Skunks are members of the weasel family (which also includes badgers, otters, ferrets and weasels). Only badgers and skunks are found in the desert. Skunk species that live in the Sonoran Desert include the spotted skunk, striped skunk, hooded skunk and hog-nosed skunk. Skunks walk flat footed instead of on their toes, this gives them their distinctive waddling, shuffling gait.

Natural History

Skunks are nocturnal animals and are famous for their ability to spray a noxious stinky fluid to deter predators. The only predator skunks have (other than people and cars) is the great horned owl, which doesn't have a well developed sense of smell. They contain enough stink for about 5-6 shots which they can spray a distance of 12 feet. Their bold black and white patterns advertise that they are not to be trifled with. They seem to be aware of their power and are generally mellow and non-aggressive.

The photo at right is of a Hooded Skunk - distinguished by the white top and and long, lush white plume for a tail.

Skunks are omnivores and eat almost anything, from beetles, grubs and grasshoppers to rodents, birds, eggs, seeds and fruit. They find their meal by snuffling around or digging, looking under rocks, logs and debris. Skunks sometimes build their own dens, but often will share the dens of other animals (like pack rats) or make use of brush piles, hollow logs, boulder piles or buildings. Skunks do not hibernate, but they gain extra weight in the fall to tide them over the winter months. Most skunks breed in the spring (except the spotted skunk which breeds in fall) and give birth in May. The 3-7 kits stay with the mother throughout the summer and accompany her on nocturnal food finding expeditions before dispersing in the fall.

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