By Jaime Vaccaro, Animal Care Professional
ZooTampa is home to nine Striped skunks. This family group comprises of Mia & Marcellus (Mom & Dad), along with their seven skunk babies, or “kits”. When first born, kits are deaf and blind and nurse from their mom for up to two months. Most of Mia and Marcellus’ kits opened their eyes and started to crawl at one month of age, and they have not stopped moving since!
Striped skunks are found only in North America. They live in every state in the United States, except Alaska and Hawaii. They are easily recognized by the white stripe pattern that runs down their back, from head to tail. The stripes start as a triangle at the head and break into two stripes down the skunk’s back. Each skunk has a unique stripe pattern just like our finger prints.
This nocturnal species usually lives in underground dens/burrows that have been abandoned by other animals, or sleep in hollowed logs. Skunks are omnivores and enjoy eating rodents, insects, nuts and berries. They use their long claws to dig into logs and into the dirt to uncover insects. During feeding time at the Zoo, guests can watch as our skunk family emerge one by one from their den. Each skunk is separated into their own eating space or chute to ensure they are eating their own diet and prevent them from eating extra snacks from siblings.
Many people may not know this, but during the colder months in Florida, skunks exhibit a wintering behavior. During this time, their food consumption decreases and they rarely come out of their dens. When they emerge in the spring, they are very active and hungry!
Although our skunk family is very curious and enjoy exploring new things they do not like surprises due to their awesome defense mechanism. They have scent glands near their tails that contain about a tablespoon of pungent spray that can hit a target 15 feet away! Typically, a skunk will try to run from a predator first, but if that doesn’t work, it will try to frighten the predator by arching its back and raising its tail. As a last resort the skunk will then spray.
A Family Plus annual Zoo membership makes it easy for your family to visit this striped skunk family in the Florida realm of the Zoo!