Spilogale gracilis
(Western Spotted Skunk)

Order: Carnivora
Order Description: Carnivores
Family: Mustelidae
Family Description: Weasels, Skunks and Others

The spotted skunk’s beautiful black hair is punctuated by 4 to 6 conspicuous white to pale yellow stripes that begin at the back of the head and continue rearward, usually breaking up into variously shaped large spots. A spot is usually present in front of each ear. The black tail has a white tip; it is not conspicuously large but it is conspicuously raised when the skunk is excited. Males are about 10% larger than females. Total length is 17-22 inches (426-540 mm), tail length is 5.6 to 9.2 inches (140-230 mm), weight is 1 to 1.4 pounds (425-650 g).

This species ranges from southern British Columbia and Montana, south throughout most of western North America to Mexico and Central America; barely enters Great Plains to the east.

Spotted skunks are typically found in semi-arid brushlands and thickets in canyons, and on rocky outcrops (rimrockClick word for definition), on hillsides and walls of canyons. In Idaho, it is also found in agricultural areas and riparianClick word for definition woodlands.

Skunks are more omnivorousClick word for definition than other members of the weasel family. The spotted skunk eats insects, rodents, small birds and birds' eggs, which constitutes most of their diet, but they will also eat reptiles, amphibians, fruits, and berries.

The spotted skunk is a good climber, a trait that the striped skunk doesn’t have. This probably explains their ability to capture birds and bird eggs. They are not hibernators, rather they are active throughout year. However, they may be inactive for fairly long periods of time in winter in Idaho. They seem to be more nocturnalClick word for definition than the striped skunk; rarely being seen out and about during daylight hours. When they are inactive, they occupy dens in rocks, burrows, hollow logs, brush piles, or under buildings. Adults are essentially solitary. Densities of up to 12 per square mile have been recorded in suitable habitat. Females utilize home ranges of slightly leas than 0.25 square mi. (0.10 ha) while males occupy home ranges of 2 to 4 square mi. (0.8 to 1/6 ha). In Idaho, individuals are destroyed for predator control. When their populations are dense, the species is a known rabiesClick word for definition vectorClick word for definition. The spotted skunk can spray its strong musk scent up to 10 feet. It does this by facing its foe, arching up its back and tail, and whoosh! Not many predators are willing to tackle the strong defensive odor of skunk spray.

Breeding occurs from late September through October. ImplantationClick word for definition is delayed for about 200 days. After a short period of development once implantation does occur, a litterClick word for definition of from 4-6 young is born in May. Young leave nest about 1 month after birth, they follow mother around until almost fully grown, and reach sexual maturity in 4-5 months.

Status: Predatory wildlife
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Information written by Donald Streubel,© 2000
Map image provided by
Stephen Burton,© 2000
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.