Early spring in Tennessee is synonymous with many things such as windy storms, crocuses, warmer temperatures and the advent of skunk season. East Tennessee is remarkably biodiverse, having thousands of different species of insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and fish. One of the most notorious species is the striped skunk (Mephitus mephitis)
We are blessed to have the striped skunk as one of our many species, and they make themselves known toward the middle of January. It is then that mating season begins and continues through early March. Males travel to find females, and fight viciously over them, often spraying each other. Females, after breeding, will spray other interested males in the face to discourage further mating. Since many winter dens are under houses or outbuildings, we quickly become aware of their presence. All Creatures Wildlife Services begins receiving skunk calls about the middle of January and continues receiving them regularly through May.
Female skunks are pregnant for 8-9 weeks and the young are usually born from mid-March through the end of April. Average litter size is about five young, although we have trapped up to 10. The babies become active by the end of a month, and one might be lucky enough to see a mother lead a line of youngsters sometime in May or June.
All skunks can spray (even newborns) up to eight times in succession. The spray is a mixture of oil-based chemicals that can carry up to a mile. Direct hits can cause vomiting and a temporary loss of vision, but no permanent damage. They are incredibly accurate at hitting targets up to 15 feet away!
Skunks do not tend to respond to any deterrents such as ultrasonic noise makers or chemicals such as mothballs, ammonia, predator urine, etc. They are strong diggers and can make it through or around many types of exclusions.