Forestry & Wildlife
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Most everyone in Alabama can say that they have smelled a skunk before—and did not enjoy it. These crawling creatures usually look cute and cuddly from a distance, but you will regret it if you get too close. Alabama Extension Forestry and Wildlife Specialist Wesley Anderson shares information on skunks native to Alabama.
Native Alabama Skunks
Two species of skunk call Alabama home: the striped skunk and the eastern spotted skunk. Both of these skunks are black and white in coloration. The striped skunk grows to about the size of a house cat upon reaching adulthood.
“The eastern spotted skunk is uncommon across most of their range, which extends up to Minnesota,” Anderson said. “This skunk used to be more common, though it is unclear why the creatures are not seen as often anymore.”
This appropriately named skunk’s body features spots and is significantly smaller than the striped skunk. Approximately the size of squirrels, it is rare to see an eastern spotted skunk in our state.
According to Anderson, skunks spray when nervous.
“Spraying is primarily a defense to keep them from getting eaten or otherwise harmed by other animals,” Anderson said.
This method of defense is quite effective, as humans and animals alike know to avoid a skunk that is spraying, or is about to spray.
“Skunks have a keen sense of smell and do not want to be around their own spray,” Anderson said. “Generally, they only do it if they think that they are in danger of some sort.”
Before spraying, eastern spotted skunks will do a handstand that alerts bystanders to what is about to happen.
Skunks as a Fur Source
Skunk fur was once a popular purchase, as people were selling it under names such as American sable, Alaskan sable or black marten. Passing laws requiring sellers to call it skunk fur put a hit on the skunk fur industry, as many buyers began associating the fur with their stench.
Today, the striped skunk is a furbearer in the state of Alabama. Trapping these skunks occurs legally generally from November through February. However, it is illegal to harvest the eastern spotted skunk.