Why Do Skunks Smell? Skunk Facts for Kids

Did you know that skunks are mammals just like people or that their smelly order is called a musk? Find out all you need to know about skunks with these skunk facts for kids.

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skunks face

What is a skunk?

Skunks are mammals. Skunks are mainly nocturnal and search for food at night. There are 10 different kinds of Skunks.  The 3 main types are Striped Skunks, Hog-Nosed Skunk, and the Spotted Skunk.

What does a skunk eat?

Skunks are omnivores meaning they eat both plants and animals. They eat a variety of things including: fruits, berries, grass, plants, insects, worms, reptiles like lizards, bird eggs, small mammals and rodents. Skunks will attack a beehive and eat honey bees. Skunks that live near humans will often eat trash and even pet food left out. They have been known to dig holes in people’s grass and eat grubs and worms.

What does a skunk look like?

When people think of a skunk they picture an animal with black fur and a white stripe going down it’s back., but not all skunks look like this. A skunk’s appearance varies by species but they all have a black and white pattern. The Striped Skunk is black with two white stripes going down their backs. The Hog-Nosed Skunk are black and hairless around their snout. They do not have a white stripe on their face. The Spotted Skunk are all black with white patches on their backs. Spotted skunks can climb trees.

On average skunks weight around 14 pounds however some can weight up to 18 pounds. They are between 15 -37 inches long. The average life span for wild skunks is 3 years.  Domesticated skunks can live up to 10 years.

skunk walking through the woods

Skunk Habitat

Skunks live mainly in North, Central and South America. The Stink Badger Skunk lives in Indonesia and the Philippines.
The most common type of skunk in the U.S is the Striped Skunk. Skunks nest in burrows made by other animals or hollow logs they will also use their front claws to dig burrows sometimes they live in abandoned buildings. Skunks live in rural, suburban and even urban areas close to water. Their habitats include woods, grasslands and brush.

Stinky Skunk

When we think of skunks the first thing that comes to mind is their stinky smelly odor. Skunks are known for spraying a  foul smell when they feel threatened. The spray is called musk. The musk is a yellow oily foam. The musk comes out of two anal glands from under their tail. Before a skunk sprays must they will usually give a warning.  They may stomp their feet, growl, hiss, turn their backs or lift their tails. Stand back because skunks can spray musk 10 – 12 feet. A Skunk’s spray can be smelled for .6 miles away. A skunk carries enough musk to spray 5-8 times.  Once the glands are empty if will take a week for them to refill. A skunks spray is not harmful to humans however the foul odor can last a couple of days but left untreated, the smell can last months to a year!

Skunk Characteristics

Because skunks are active at night some believe that they are nocturnal animals but skunks are actually crepuscular animals meaning they are active during twilight. Twilight are the hours right before sunrise and the hours right before sunset. Skunks are solitary animals unless mating. Solitary means that they spend most of their time alone. Winter is the only exception to this. During Winter many female skunks will huddle together in their dens to keep warm. Male skunks continue to stay alone.

Skunk Facts for Kids

A  male skunk is called a buck.
A female skunk is called a doe.
A baby skunk is called a kit.
Kits are born blind and do not have the ability to spray musk for a couple of weeks.
Mother skunks give birth to 2-10 skunks.
Skunks can runs up to 10 miles per hour.
Skunks have excellent hearing and a good sense of smell.  They have poor eyesight.
Skunks can carry rabies.

Skunk Predators

A skunk’s black and white pattern is a warning for predators to keep away. Predators to skunks are wolves, fox, owls, coyotes and bobcats.