The skunk that most of us in the U.S. know best, the Striped skunk, is just an entry-level stinker.
Its cousin, the Spotted skunk, possesses an even more potent musk. And the Spotted skunk is also the better entertainer.
A Seldom Seen Skunk
The smallest skunks found in North America, Spotted skunks are sleek, fast, and skilled climbers. They’re highly nocturnal, too, which means that few of us ever see them.
One of the two sub-species, Western Spotted or Eastern Spotted skunk, can be found in most of the continental U.S. (See range maps to right) There’s very little difference between two sub-species, although the Eastern tends to be slightly larger than the Western.
These skunks’ nocturnal nature means that while we’re spared their malodorous weapon, we’re deprived their acrobatic performances. These start when the spotted skunk feels itself threatened.
First, the animal rapidly stomps the ground with its forefeet. Next, quite remarkably, it rises up on its front legs and performs one or more handstands. And if the threat persists, the skunk will drop back onto all fours, curve its body so that both front and back ends face the interloper, and deliver a blast of skunk musk up to 16 feet away.
The video above, from the BBC show Weird Nature, shows the Spotted skunk performing its distinctive dance, although it’s in an unusual setting. Researchers speculate that this performance (which they refer to as a demonstration) has evolved as a warning to predators and other animals. Once a would-be predator has seen it and then been sprayed, the thinking is that subsequent demonstrations act as warnings and discourage further attempts at predation.
It all sounds quite entertaining, as long as you’re not on the receiving end!
What To Do If The Unfortunate Happens?
The malodorous oil that skunks spray is produced by glands around the anus. The secretion of Spotted skunks differs from that of Striped skunks— and can actually smell stronger if water is used to remove it. One of the most effective ways to remove the oil’s unpleasant smell is to oxidize the active elements in it with baking soda or hydrogen peroxide when bathing humans or pets.
Have you encountered a Spotted Skunk, or even a Striped one? We’ve heard many good skunk stories over the years and would enjoy hearing yours.