TNB Night Owl – Spotted Skunks

A spotted skunk doing a handstand. Image captured by the News Blender.

Most skunks have three white stripes. A much smaller and rarer genus, Spilogale, of which there are four species, has four to six stripes. These omnivores are so rare, it’s difficult to find good pics or videos of them, and that’s unfortunate because they have a unique way of warning anyone threatening them.

First, they repeatedly stamp their front feet and hiss, as if to say, “I’m very angry that you’re bothering me, and I’m putting both of my feet down hard, repeatedly, to let you know that I won’t put up with much more of this”. If that doesn’t work, they take it to the next level and do a ‘handstand’ on their front feet, with their big bushy tail straight up in the air. This makes them appear to predators to be bigger than they are and also shows off their fancy-patterned stripes – a not-so-subtle reminder to anyone who’s crossed paths with one of these acrobatic little stinkers before that says, “just remember who you’re dealing with here, bucko!” – right before the situation escalates to level three.

If you get to level three with a spotted skunk, just close your eyes, because it’s too late to run. The spray glands are locked, loaded, and will be aimed with precision directly at the face and eyes of the nuisance maker. If the target is within ten to fifteen feet, chances of a direct hit will be very good. The secretion is a combination of three thiols: (E)-2-butene-1-thiol, 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, and 2-phenylethanethiol. The first two thiols are identical to the chemical weapons used by striped skunks. The latter thiol is unique to spotted skunks. If the thiol combination spray gets in your eyes, you’ll experience a wicked stinging sensation along with temporary blindness. You don’t want to inhale it either, so close your mouth and cover your nose before you’re skunked. Oh, who are we kidding, there won’t be time for that. Skunks move quickly when they perceive danger or an annoying punk human, able to aim and trigger the spray glands in a fraction of a second, leaving no time for you to react. Your best bet is to bail at level one, before said spotted skunk shows off its gymnastic abilities.

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mephitidae
Genus: Spilogale (Gray, 1865)
Four Species:
Spilogale gracilis (Western spotted skunk)
Spilogale putorius (Eastern spotted skunk)
Spilogale pygmaea (Pygmy spotted skunk)
Spilogale angustifrons (Southern spotted skunk)

Spotted skunks are often mis-identified as weasels, civets, pole cats, and various other critters.

“Spotted skunk handstand” (0:43)

“Friendly Spotted Skunk” (1:10)

“Spotted Skunk Handstand | Weird Nature | BBC Studios” (1:38)

“Heard of The SPOTTED SKUNK? He Does HANDSTANDS & Dances!” (5:05)

Question Of The Night: What’s for lunch on a day when everything is perfect?

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About Richard Doud 332 Articles
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