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1_florida boardwalk skunk kits may 29 2015

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has welcomed a litter of seven baby Skunks!  Born May 2 to first time mom, ‘Mia’ (now affectionately known as ‘Momma Mia’), the Skunk kits have just opened their eyes and will soon emerge from the den. Mia and kits, five boys and two girls, have been relocated to a temporary enclosure, along the Florida boardwalk, until the kits are mobile. 

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4_florida boardwalk skunk kit 3 may 29 2015Photo Credits: Dave Parkinson/Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

Born hairless, weighing only 40-50 grams each (about the weight of a slice of bread), the now furry siblings were recently weighed, and are currently at 180-208 grams each. Members of the Zoo’s animal care team feed Mia breakfast, while her kits are checked and weighed one at a time, then placed quickly back into the den.

Skunks are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material and changing their diets as the seasons change. They eat insects and larvae, earthworms, grubs, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles and eggs. They also commonly eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi and nuts. In settled areas, Skunks also peruse garbage left by humans. Pet owners may experience a Skunk finding its way into a garage or storage area where pet food is kept.

Skunks are crepuscular and solitary when not breeding, though in colder parts of their range, they may gather in communal dens for warmth. During the day, they shelter in burrows, which they can dig with their powerful front claws. Males and females occupy overlapping home ranges through the greater part of the year. Skunks are not true hibernators in the winter, but do den-up for extended periods of time.

Skunks mate in early spring and polygamous. The female will excavate and prepare a den to house her litter. Skunks are placental, with a gestation period of about 66 days, and they generally give birth to four to seven kits.  The kits are weaned after about two months, but they will stay with their mother for about one year, until they reach mating age.

Skunks are notorious for their anal scent glands, which they can use as a defensive weapon. They have two glands, one on each side of the anus. These glands produce a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals. Muscles located next to the scent glands allow them to spray with a high degree of accuracy, as far as 10 feet. The spray can cause irritation and temporary blindness. Skunks are reluctant to use their weapon, as they carry just enough of the chemical for five or six uses (about 15 cc) and require about 10 days to produce another supply.

One of the commonly held beliefs is that a pet that has been sprayed should be bathed in tomato juice to neutralize the smell. However, this can require large amounts of juice and is only marginally effective. The Humane Society of the United States recommends using a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dishwashing liquid.

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