|Spilogale putorius (Linnaeus)|
Eastern Spotted Skunk
Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
17 - 23 in. (450 - 600 mm)
6 - 8 in. (150 - 215 mm)
- Hind foot:
1 5/8 - 2 1/8 in. (42 - 53 mm)
1 - 3 lbs. (0.5 - 1.4 kg)
The eastren spotted skunk is the smaller of the two skunks
occurring in the park. It is black with a white spot on the
forehead, one white spot under each ear, and four to six
broken white stripes along the neck, back, and sides. The
fur is long and silky. White spots or patches are present on
the rump, and the bushy black tail usually has a broad, white
tip. The front feet possess sharp, recurved claws that are
twice as long as thoes on the hind feet.
The eastern spotted skunk ranges from northeastern Mexico
through the Great Plains to the Canadian border and
throughout the southeastern United States north to Pennsylvania.
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
Spotted skunks may inhabit forested and brushy areas as well as
agricultural regions. They are often found in crevices in cliffs
and in rock slides.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The spotted skunk is the smaller and less common of the two
skunks inhabiting the park and has been recorded up to
2,900 feet elevation.
- Blount Co.:
- Sevier Co.:
Park headquarters (1,500 feet); Sugarlands;
Chimneys picnic area; Greenbrier Cove
- Haywood Co.:
Cataloochee; Big Creek (2,800 feet); Walnut
Bottom; near the mouth of Mouse Creek (2,800
- Swain Co.:
Twentymile area (1,400 feet); Forney Creek.
Litters of two to six young are born in a nest of grass or
hay within the den during May or June. Delayed implantation
occurs and greatly prolongs gestation. The fertilized egg
starts its development as it travels down the oviduct.
Reaching the uterus in the blastocyst stage, it then becomes
inactive, the metabolic rate falls, and cell division ceases.
The unimplanted blastocyst remains quiescent for a period of
ten to eleven months before implantation and normal
development resumes. Newborn skunks have their eyes and ears
closed and are covered with fine hair that shows the adult
color pattern (Crabb, 1944). The eyes
open between 30 and 32 days, and the first solid food is
eaten at about 42 days of age. Weaning takes place at about
eight weeks of age, and the young may reach their full growth
in slightly more than three months. Breeding occurs at one year.
Life expectancy in the wild is unknown, although a captive
skunk lived almost 10 years (Egoscue et. al.
- Terrestrial Ecology
These skunks are nocturnal and are active all year. They are
more agile and alert than the striped skunk, and they are good
climbers. Dens may be in underground burrows, beneath farm
buildings, in hollow logs, in rock crevices, or in lumber
When frightened or angered, the eastern spotted skunk may
engage in several unique behaviors that may serve as either a
bluff or a warning prior to the discharge of the scent. It
may stomp or pat its front feet in rapid succession on the
floor or ground. It can also do a "handstand" on its front
feet. The skunk upends itself, holds its tail in the air, and
may walk up to several yards in this manner.
The eastern spotted skunk is omnivorous. It feeds primarily
on small mammals, fruits, insects, birds, lizards, snakes,
and carrion. The stomach of a specimen found near park
headquarters in November, 1950, contained the remains of a
northern spring peeper (Hyla crucifer), a short-tailed
shrew (Blarina brevicauda), one katydid, one camel
cricket, several clover leaves, and miscellaneous arthropod
remains (Pfitzer, 1950).
- Predators and Defense
No records from the park.
Approximately two dozen acanthocephala, two tapeworms, and
several nematodes were removed from a specimen taken near
park headquarters by Pfitzer (1950).
Links to Other Sites
- Special Protection Status
- In Park:
All plants and animals are protected within Great Smoky
Mountains National Park.
Collection requires a permit which is usually granted
only for research or educational purposes.
- Map development
- Web page design & coding
- Denise Lim, University of Georgia, Athens
- John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens
Crabb, W. D. 1944.
Growth, development, and seasonal weights of spotted skunks.
Journal of Mammalogy 25 (3): 213-221.
Dragoo, J. W. and R. L. Honeycutt. 1997.
Systematics of mustelid-like carnivores. Journal of
Mammalogy 78 (2): 426-443.
Egoscue, H. J., J. G. Bittmenn and J. A. Petrovich. 1970.
Some fecundity and longevity records for captive small mammals.
Journal of Mammalogy 51 (3): 622-623.
Kinlaw, A. 1995.
Spilogale putorius. Mammalian Species No. 511: 1 - 7.
American Society of Mammalogists.
Linzey, D. W. 1995a.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Blacksburg, Virginia: The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc.
Linzey, D. W. 1995b.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park-1995 Update.
Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 111(1):1-81.
Pfitzer, D.W. 1950.
Report on mammals collected or observed, June-October, 1950.
(Typewritten copy in files of Great Smoky Mountains National Park).
Last modified: 10 April, 2002