Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the June 26, 2005 Newsletter issued from the Sierra Nevada foothills somewhat east of Placerville, California, USA

As I hiked through a cool Sugar Pine forest on Slate Mountain, eastern El Dorado County, four Striped Skunks, MEPHITIS MEPHITIS, emerged from the shadows and, single file, lumbered down an embankment into a corrugated metal drainage pipe running beneath the road.

Striped Skunks are fairly common in all but the most northern and frigid sections of North America, but they are basically nocturnal. Surely I was seeing a mother with her half-grown kids in tow, and at this point in the kids' lives schooling was more important than keeping a low profile during the day.

In fact, one mammalogist writing about Striped Skunks at http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/mephmeph.htm says that in his whole life he's seen this species "abroad in midday only twice, and in each instance a female was trailing her family of third-grown youngsters in single file across a meadow to a patch of woodland beyond." If you visit that site, notice the data showing what a high percentage of its diet is composed of insects (mainly grubs) and arachnids (spiders).

I suppose most of us have good skunk stories. My best one about Striped Skunks is from the time when I lived in the eastern Kentucky mountains and one night the old hound dog came scratching and whining at the screen door. When I opened the door he ran inside, between my legs, before I could smell what the problem was. He'd been squirted, and now he proceeded to rub his body on every piece of furniture and every rug in the house.

That's when I learned that smelling skunk hour after hour, day after day, week after week, can actually make you sick. Tomato juice and diluted solutions of vinegar are noted deodorizers for skunk encounters, but there wasn't enough tomato juice or vinegar in the state of Kentucky to undo what that old hound did to our house that night.