Skunks are mammals best known for their ability to excrete a strong, foul smelling odor. General appearance ranges from species to species, from black and white to brown or cream colored. Skunks belong to the family Mephitidae and to the order Carnivora. There are 10 species of skunks, which are divided into four genera: Mephitis (hooded and striped skunks, two species), Spilogale (spotted skunks, two species), Mydaus (stink badgers, two species) and Conepatus (hog nosed skunks, four species). The two skunk species in the Mydaus genus inhabit Indonesia and the Philippines; all other skunks inhabit the Americas from Canada to central South America.
Skunk species vary in size from about 15.6 to 37 inches and in weight from 1.1 pounds (the spotted skunks) to 18 pounds (the hog nosed skunks).
Skunks are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material and changing their diet as the seasons change. They eat insects and larvae, earthworms, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles and eggs. They also commonly eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi and nuts.
The notorious feature of skunks is their anal scent glands which they can use as a defensive weapon. The glands contain chemicals that have a highly offensive smell that has been described as a combination of the odors of rotten eggs, garlic and burnt rubber. The odor of the fluid is strong enough to ward off bears and other potential attackers and can be difficult to remove from clothing. Skunks can spray with high accuracy as far as 7 - 15 feet.
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