The typical average lifespan of a wild skunk is approximately three years old. This is because half of the population will die before they reach one year old.
Skunks are wild animals you’ll often see in your backyard or rummaging through your trash cans looking for grubs, pet food, and leftover food. You might also notice their unforgettable perfume and wonder how long they’ll possibly stick around your property.
However, despite their bad reputation, skunks can be beneficial animals. Skunks quietly offer you a natural form of pest control as they feed on rodents such as rats and mice, and insects.
You may be wondering how long skunks in your region live. In this guide, we will answer the question, “How long do skunks live?” what affects their lifespan, and what to do to help them live longer.
Let’s dive in!
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How long do wild skunks live?
Wild skunks can reach seven to eight years, but most will die when they’re around two to three years old. This is because some skunks persevere more than others defying the odds to live longer.
The usual lifespan of a wild skunk is approximately three years old. This is because half of the population will die before they reach one year old. Young skunks are more susceptible to disease and predators, killing them off in droves.
Let’s look at the causes of death:
Causes of death
As mentioned above, wild skunks can live up to ten years but most die when they’re between two to three years. The cause is predators and disease:
Predators cause less than five percent of skunk deaths. Skunks have a bold coat that doesn’t blend in and are happy to stand out, reminding predators of their foul-smell spray.
This is a very effective strategy that deters most predators. Only the desperate or inexperienced animals will mess with skunks. The main predators that are likely to attack skunks include:
- Mountain lions
A few diseases ravage the skunk population, making them dangerous if you find them on your property. However, not all skunks carry diseases, and not all diseases can affect humans.
It is, however, crucial to take every skunk you come across sick because just glancing at it isn’t enough to tell you if they’re sick or healthy. Below are the few serious diseases that skunks may carry:
- Canine distemper
- Canine hepatitis
- Intestinal roundworm
Types of skunks
There are different skunks; you can use the following tips to identify the skunks in your region.
Striped skunks are more common in urban areas and neighborhoods, among other habitats. Typically, they’re black and approximately the size of an average house cat.
Also, they have very prominent white stripes on their snouts and a white V-shaped marking on their backs. They’re the largest species and can reach up to 14 pounds.
These can easily be confused with the striped skunks but have softer fur and longer tails.
They also have distinctive tufts of fur around the necks. Some bear two thin white stripes running down their tails and backs. Although others have one thick stripe with a solid white tail.
These hog-nosed skunks are large and can weigh two to six pounds. They are marked with one white stripe running from nose to tail.
They’re primarily found in sparsely timbered or rocky areas of North America, especially in Texas. Their long snouts and claws make them perfect diggers.
Spotted skunks are mainly divided into eastern and western types. Skunks climbing trees are most likely to be eastern and have several broken white strips running on their backs and a black tip on their short tail.
Their western counterparts have a white tip on their tails and wider white stripes on their backs. They’re small and weigh between fourteen ounces to two pounds.
Other types of skunks include:
- Pygmy spotted skunks
- Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunk
- Molina’s hog-nosed skunk
- Indonesian stink badger
- Palawan stink badger
Skunks are famously known for their aromatic spray when they feel threatened. They have special glands found beneath their tails. The glands produce an oily spray liquid called skunk musk.
When they feel threatened, skunks spray their aggressors with this musk. The chemical composition of the skunk mask varies from species to species, but every type has compounds known as thiols that result in a foul smell.
Skunk spray can reach up to ten feet, but the foul smell can be detected further away. Besides, the hooded and the striped skunks are very accurate when they aim.
Skunk musk is usually harmless, but it can result in nausea in some people. If it reaches your eyes, it can result in temporary blindness. The pungent smell is also temporary but can linger around for days defying some of the best attempts to cover it up or wash it off.
Some skunks dig their burrows with their front feet but always prefer living in those built by other animals. They also build dens in hollow logs; you could come across them under your foundation, shed, or deck.
Skunks are small nocturnal mammals preferring to forage for food during the night. They’re also omnivorous consuming everything from birds and rodents to birdseed, insects, grubs, pet food, or home refuse.
If you’re having a skunk problem on your property, you can use the following tips to get them and other varmints like raccoons under control.
Clean up the yard and eliminate debris like fence posts, brush piles, and rock piles. Even Lumber and other household items could provide a place for skunks to settle.
Clean up your garbage and cover your garbage cans. If possible, keep pet food indoors if you live in skunk-prone areas. This also helps keep off rodents that are a favorite skunk delicacy.