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Aside from their recognizable black-and-white-striped coats, striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) have small, pointed faces and sharp front claws, which they use for digging. Glands beneath their bushy tails produce an oily, sulfurous substance that the animals can spray with accuracy up to 10 feet, temporarily disabling the senses of potential attackers and allowing the skunks to escape. They give warning, though, by stamping their front feet and raising their tails.

Skunks are considered “opportunistic feeders,” which means they’ll eat just about anything they can find, including insects, grubs, mice, moles, young cottontails, berries and other vegetation, and eggs as well as garbage and pet food. They are nocturnal and prefer to live near water but are common in cities and suburbs that provide adequate food and shelter. They den in abandoned burrows as well as in stumps, buildings and brush piles.

Skunks mate between mid-February and mid-March and have litters of four to eight in May or early June, which the females raise alone. The young leave their dens in fall to find territories of their own.