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Skunkfamily Mephitidaealso called polecatblack-and-white mammalfound primarily in the Western Hemispherethat uses extremely well-developed scent glands to release a noxious odour in defense. The term skunkhowever, refers to more than just the well-known striped skunk Mephitis mephitis. The skunk family is composed of 11 species, 9 of which are found in the Western Hemisphere. Primarily nocturnal, skunks are diverse carnivore s that live in a wide variety of habitats, including deserts, forests, and mountains.
Most are about the size of a housecat, but some are ificantly smaller. The common striped skunk is found from central Canada southward throughout the United States to northern Mexico. In the hooded skunk stripes are not always present, and white areas on the back are interspersed with black fur, which gives it a gray appearance.
The smell of solitude
Spotted skunks genus Spilogale live from southwestern Canada to Costa Rica. Except for a white spot between the eyes, their spots are actually a series of interrupted stripes running down the back and sides.
These are about the size of a tree squirrel and are the smallest skunks except for the pygmy spotted skunk S. The hog-nosed skunks genus Conepatus of North America can be larger than striped skunks, but those of Chile and Argentina are smaller. In the northern part of their range, they have a single solid white stripe starting at the top of the head that covers the tail and back.
Hog-nosed skunks have no markings between the eyes. In the s stink badgers genus Mydaus ; see badger became classified as members of the family Mephitidae, and they thus are now considered skunks. Found only in the PhilippinesMalaysia, and Indonesiathey resemble small North American hog-nosed skunks with shorter tails.
Their white stripes can be divided, single and narrow, or absent. Skunk scent comes from anal glands located inside the rectum at the base of the tail. All carnivores have anal scent glands, but they are extremely well-developed in skunks. Each of the two glands has a nipple associated with it, and skunks can aim the spray with highly coordinated muscle control.
When a skunk is being chased by a predator but cannot see it, the spray is emitted as an atomized cloud that the pursuer must run through. This usually is enough to deter most predators. Although accurate to about two metres more than six feetits total range is considerably farther.
A skunk will go through a series of threat behaviours before it sprays. Striped and hooded skunks will face an adversary head-on and stamp their front paws, sometimes charging forward a few paces or edging backward while dragging their front paws. When they actually spray, they can simultaneously face their head and tail at the antagonist. Hog-nosed skunks stand up on their hind paws and slam their front paws to the ground while hissing loudly.
Spotted skunks perform a handstand and approach predators. Stink badgers snarl, show their teeth, and stamp their forefeet.
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They also have been observed to feign death, with the anal area directed at the observer. The chemical composition of skunk spray differs among species, but sulfur compounds thiol s and thioacetates are primarily responsible for its strength. Introduction Scent Natural history Importance to man Paleontology and classification.
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Facts about skunks
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10 pungent facts about skunks
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