Sign of the Skunk

Scat of the Striped Skunk on driveway pavement

Scat of the Striped Skunk on driveway pavement

 

Many animals leave behind droppings in their feeding or hunting areas.  Finding these droppings or scat lets us know that we have had unseen visitors to the meadows edge – usually between the hours of dusk and dawn.  The scat in the photo above is about 2 1/4 inches long and up to 3/4 inches in diameter.
 
The professional tracker Paul Rezendes writes that skunk scat is much larger than you might think. Striped Skunk droppings are usually black (sometimes glossy black) and are often composed of insect parts. Striped Skunk Scat may reach 3/4″ in diameter or more.   For identification purposes, you may have to break the scat apart with a stick to examine the contents.  Most Striped Skunk scat contains the wings and other undigestible body parts of insects.
 
The Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is an ominivore.  It feeds on small mammals such as mice, amphibians, reptiles, birds and bird eggs, turtle eggs, fruits, berries and other plant materials.  Its summer diet may consist of 90% insects and insect grubs or larvae.  This is what skunks dig for on suburban lawns and the woodland floor.
 
The Striped Skunk may den communally during winter, sharing space with other skunks. Normally they are solitary creatures.  Skunks dig burrows that have two or three chambers, often lined with grasses or leaves.  They may sleep to conserve energy during very cold spells, and emerge when the weather is milder. 
 
This post has been fact-checked using the book Tracking & The Art of Seeing by Paul Rezendes (1999). NY: HarperCollins Publishers, pp. 151 – 152.

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