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Posts tagged “Striped Skunk

Signs of Striped Skunks

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If you are finding small, conical pits in your lawn, you probably have a striped skunk to thank for reducing your grub population.  During the spring and summer, invertebrates make up a large percentage of this nocturnal omnivore’s diet.  With the help of their well-developed sense of smell and their long nails (which make them excellent diggers), they locate, gain access to and consume subterranean insect larvae with relative ease.   Another sign of skunk activity, in addition to lawn divots, are the excavated ground nests of yellowjackets.  If they’ve met with success, skunks will often leave sections of empty, paper cells scattered about the nest site.  Apparently, even though yellowjackets can sting multiple times, they’re not very effective at discouraging foraging skunks.  Should you be so inclined, a close examination of skunk scat will reveal bits of insect exoskeletons, as well as the bones and hair of small rodents.  The pictured scat (next to the divot) contained, in addition to insect parts, the fur of another nocturnal animal, a flying squirrel.  (Thanks to Emily and Joe Silver for photo op.)

Striped Skunk

Although you would think that no predator would think of preying on, much less eating, a striped skunk, there are a few mammals, including coyotes, foxes and bobcats, that do just that, but only if they are in danger of starving.  One predator that routinely dines on skunks is the great horned owl.  One summer night I made out the silhouette of an owl flying in my direction, and as it flew by me its identity was confirmed by the skunk-like odor that accompanied it. 


Striped Skunk Feeding Holes

If you wake up and your lawn is full of small (1”-2” diameter) conical holes you can be sure of two things.  One is that you have an infestation of grubs in your lawn.  Secondly, a striped skunk has done you the favor of decreasing your grub population.  Skunks are omnivorous, eating everything from snails and birds’ eggs to nuts and berries.  In the summer, roughly half of their diet consists of insects.   One of their favorites is beetle larvae (grubs), particularly the immature June bug larvae, which reside an inch or so beneath the surface of the soil.  When skunks have been feeding under a pine tree, the circular motion with which they presumably dig the hole is obvious in the circular arrangement of the needles surrounding the hole.