The striped skunk is the most abundant of five species in Texas and often causes hysteria among some people with a mere sighting.
They are rather slow-moving and deliberate, and have great confidence in defending themselves. Skunks typically will avoid human activity when given the chance, but usually as a last resort the skunk will release highly odorous oil based secretion to repel any conceived threat.
According to the Texas Department of Health, skunks are the primary carriers of rabies in Texas and account for 73 percent of the reported cases. Be especially wary of “friendly” skunks, since one of the characteristics of rabies in wildlife is a loss of fear of humans. Skunks can be infected by mange and a host for various parasites.
Biology & Habits
Skunks are nocturnal and omnivorous; it eats both meat and plants. Over half of its year around diet is insects and grubs, mice and other rodents fill in one-fourth of the diet, and vegetable matter one-tenth. During the breeding period in late February, a male may travel four to five miles each night in search of a mate, with a gestation of seven to ten weeks. There is usually only one litter born annually. Litters commonly consist of four to six appearing in May. The young stay with the mother until fall. The skunk is a social animal outside of the breeding season and will often den together.
Skunks have short, stocky and proportionately large feet equipped with well developed claws that enable it to be very adept at digging. Skunks are able to discharge their odorous musk multiple times and at any angle up ten to twelve feet with amazing accuracy and with a little wind targets at greater distances can be in range. Juvenile skunks are able to spray by the time they are seven weeks old, and tend to spray with less provocation than the adults.
Most skunk damage occurs as a result of their grubbing in lawns in search of food and their burrowing activities for shelter. Skunk digging normally appears as small as three to four inch cone-shaped holes or patches of turned up soil and burrows are deep and five to seven inches in diameter.
Skunks can be quick to take advantage of urban living by frequently visiting unattended pet food bowls on back porches and in garages. Bird feeders are also an attractive food source feeding up on discarded bird seed on the ground which also attracts other food sources such as mice. A steady food source only increases the likeliness of a skunk conflict. .Prevention is always a sound management approach. Skunks can be excluded from burrowing under decks and sheds by trenching around the perimeter ten to twelve inches pending soil conditions an burying a hardware cloth or wire mesh.