Skunk Facts (family Mephitidae)
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Once considered members of the family Mustelids, the recent import of DNA analysis into the biological sciences provided the impetus for placing the world's skunks in a separate and distinct family, Mephitidae.
Currently the Mephitidae breaks down into four genera and twelve species.
Most are new world species, five of which have a presence in the United States. A quick look at the range maps shows the United States to be the skunk capital of the world.
The Striped-skunk (Mephitis mephitis) pictured above, a very adaptable species, can be found in most areas of the United States, from back yards to deserts to mid-altitude mountainous areas.
The Eastern-spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) and Western-spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis), the second and third most abundant native species, also adapt to a variety of habitats. They split their territory at roughly the edge of the Rocky Mountains.
The range of the two remaining native species, the Hooded Skunk (Mephitis macroura) and American Hog-nosed Skunk (Conepatus leuconotus) barely reach into the desert Southwest.
While all skunks are classified as carnivores, omnivore might better describe their dietary habits. Additionally, most skunks feed on insects.
In keeping with the family spirit, all skunk species are known for their use of discharging an unpleasant chemical as a defense mechanism.
Whenever a discussion of skunks arises, so too does the age old issue regarding removal of skunk gunk, the odor created when the skunk sprays its chemical defense.
Skunk gunk consists of
One of the most highly recommended organic remedies goes as follows: In a large, open container
- mix 1 quart fresh hydrogen peroxide
- with 1/4 cup baking soda
- with 1 teaspoon of liquid laundry soap or dish washing detergent
Use the mixture immediately on the affected area, dog, person, clothes etc., al.
Rinse and repeat if necessary.
The hydrogen peroxide and baking soda combine to break down the oily substances in the skunk spray.
Sometimes it might be easier to discard contaminated clothes. Be careful not to drop contaminated clothes on uncontaminated surfaces.
© 2010. Patricia A. Michaels