type of skunk

5 Types of Cute Skunks You Didn’t Know Existed

There is more variety in the skunk family than you may have suspected. Going far beyond the familiar waddling, black-and-white striped critter roaming many suburban backyards, there are a wide variety of lesser-known skunk species — including two found in the Malay Islands of southeast Asia. But they all have two things in common: an infamously unmistakable aroma and a single ancestry source.

According to PBS, “DNA and evidence from the fossil record suggest that the Mephitidae family derived from a single common ancestor about 30 to 40 million years ago. The descendants of this ancient skunk have evolved into 12 of the stinkiest and most intriguing species on the planet.”

Those 12 species fall into five distinct types of skunks. Here they are, each beneficial to their ecosystems and surprisingly cute in their own smelly way.

Striped skunks

This type of skunk is probably the most commonly known. Found throughout North America from central Mexico into Canada, the striped skunk is content living anywhere from the most pristine wilderness to the heart of urban centers. It’s black-and-white markings are familiar and even fear-inducing to those who have had an unfortunate run-in with its spray.

The spray is an oily liquid that the skunk can shoot up to 10 feet. It’s so powerful that it can induce vomiting and can temporarily blind anyone unfortunate enough to get spritzed in the eyes. The stink lasts for days and is next to impossible to get out. Ask a dog owner whose pet got sprayed, and they’ll confirm how tough it is to wash away.

Despite the smelly trouble they can sometimes cause, striped skunks — and all skunk species — are quite beneficial. They have an omnivorous diet and help with everything from keeping insects like grasshoppers, beetles, crickets and wasps in check to spreading seeds of fruits and berries and cleaning up fallen fruit.

Spotted skunks

Not all skunks come with stripes. This adorable species sports a black-and-white dappled coat that, while technically isn’t spotted, is the source of this variety’s name. Rather than the ventral stripes of other species, spotted skunks have stripe-like patches of white in patterns distinct to each individual.

There are four species of spotted skunk, all of which are found from Central America north into Canada. Two species, the eastern spotted skunk and the pygmy spotted skunk, are considered to be vulnerable to extinction.

Spotted skunks grow to be one to two feet in length and are agile climbers, often taking to the trees and walking along branches, which is why they’re sometimes called tree skunks. Taking advantage of a diverse diet, spotted skunks will happily feast on fruits and other easy foods, but also will go after tougher prey such as snakes.

While forests and shrub-covered areas offer a great habitat, spotted skunks are content setting up dens around homes, farms and other places where it might be easy to have a run-in with this cute but stinky creature. Luckily they give plenty of warning, including stomping and rising up to walk on their front feet.

Check out the dance this little guy can do when warning off an intruder:

Hooded skunks

Hooded skunks get their name from the cap of long fur on the top of their heads and the backs of their necks, which can look almost like a furry cape. They have color pattern variations, including a single wide, white dorsal stripe (pictured here), or they may be entirely black except for the white hood and some white on the tail. This skunk has a longer tail and softer fur than its striped skunk cousins.

The hooded skunk is found from the southwestern United States all the way down to Costa Rica. This species can be found in a variety of habitats, according to the University of Michigan. “Hooded skunks can live in several habitats, from dry lowlands to boreal forests or plateaus, and many habitats in between. These skunks may be found in high-elevation ponderosa pine forests, deciduous forests, forest edges, riparian zones, rocky canyons, grasslands, pastures, and arid desert lowlands. In Oaxaca, Mexico, where they are the most common skunk species, they prefer grasslands and marshes over scrublands.”

Like many skunk species, hooded skunks have more than just one name. This species is sometimes called the long-tailed Mexican skunk, southern skunk, white-sided skunk or zorillo.

Hog-nosed skunks

Hog-nosed skunks have a broad, bald snout much like that of a pig. Like their namesake, the hog-nosed skunk uses its strong sniffer to root around in the ground for food, which includes grubs, beetles and insect larvae. Combined with long, sharp claws and a powerful upper body, hog-nosed skunks are powerful diggers.

Hog-nosed skunks are found in southern North America, Central America and portions of South America. There are several distinct species: Molina’s hog-nosed skunk, the striped hog-nosed skunk, Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunk and the American hog-nosed skunk (which includes eastern hog-nosed and western hog-nosed skunks).

The American hog-nosed skunk is not only among the largest skunk species at more than 2 feet long and weighing up to 10 pounds, it is also the only species that lacks the familiar white medial bar between the eyes. The all-black face and distinctive nose make this type of skunk easy to identify.

The hog-nosed skunk has an interesting evolutionary history among skunk species. According to Natural History Magazine:

An ancestor of hog-nosed skunks and a spotted skunk-like form appeared in the early Pliocene records of Mexico. Shortly after that, the hog-nosed skunks managed to migrate into South America, taking advantage of a newly formed land bridge connecting North and South America. This is part of a major geologic event called the Great American Biotic Interchange, or GABI, and hog-nosed skunks were among the earliest carnivores to expand to the south.

Hog-nosed skunks primarily eat insects and prey that are considered crop pests, so they can be particularly beneficial to have on a farm or in a garden.

Stink badgers

Despite the “badger” label, these smelly critters fall squarely in the skunk family. Their appearance is part of the misnomer, since they lack a long bushy tail like other skunk species. Instead, they have a similar look to badgers with their robust, stocky body shape and stumpy tails.

There are two species of stink badger — the Palawan stink badger, or pantot, and the Sunda stink badger, or teledu. They’re found on the western islands of the Malay Archipelago where they root around for invertebrates, eggs, worms and other goodies under the cover of night.

Like its skunk relatives, and true to its name, the stink badger can spray a foul-smelling secretion as a form of self-defense. For the Sunda stink badger, this is the second tack it takes when threatened. Its first strategy is to play dead like an opossum. When it is forced to squirt a predator, it can spray the secretion only about 6 inches. The Palawan stink badger, on the other hand, has a far more noxious smelling secretion which it can spray up to a meter away and will do so as the first line of defense. In other words, they’re not to be trifled with.

Check out a stink badger in action as it moves around looking for grub (literally!) in the middle of the night.

All skunks stink, but there's much more to the skunk types than just the black-and-white stripes of Pepé Le Pew.

15 Types Of Skunks

There are 12 species of skunks but there are 5 types of skunks that stand out the most. No matter the species though, they all have the same thing in common, they all stink. Their scientific name, Mephitidae, really means stink. So you know that little critters are the real deal.

Skunk are omnivores and are known to eat anything from insects and larvae, earthworms, grubs, rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, fish, birds, moles, and eggs as well as berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi, and nuts. Here are the different skunk varieties.

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Striped skunks

Striped skunks are the most common skunk species in North America. They’re the ones that you most likely see in your backyard. Striped skunks have black and white markings and can live in most terrain throughout North America without a problem.

These animals have a white stripe that runs from its head to its tail which is how they’re identified. Striped skunks are pretty smart. They don’t spray their dens nor do they spray in confined areas. I think they know just how much they stink.

  • Scientific name: Mephitis mephitis
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Mephitidae
  • Rank: Species

Hog-Nosed Types of Skunks

Hog-nosed skunks get their name because they have a broad nose that resembles the nose of a pig. There are 4 different species of hog-nosed skunks:

American Hog-Nosed Skunk

The American hog-nosed skunk (also Western Hog-Nosed Skunk) is a species of hog-nosed skunk native to Central and North America. They are known to grow to lengths of up to 2.7 feet making them one of the largest of their kind.

These are skunk with no stripes and instead, it has a single, broad white coat of fur from the top of the head to the base of the tail, with the tail itself being completely white. However, the underside/lower body of the skunk is black in color. They prefer to live in canyons, streamsides, and rocky terrain.

  • Scientific name: Conepatus leuconotus
  • Mass: 4.2 lbs (Adult)
  • Length: 17 in. (Adult)
  • Trophic level: Carnivorous
  • Conservation status: Least Concern (Population decreasing)
  • Gestation period: 61 days

Molina’s Hog-Nosed Skunk

Would you ever have thought that there was a cute skunk? Molina’s hog-nosed skunk have thin white markings. It generally has black fur and 2 white stripes running from the top of the head down the sides of the body to a mostly white tail. And, of course, a pink, hog-like, fleshy nose

  • Mass: 7.5 lbs (Adult)
  • Scientific name: Conepatus chinga
  • Conservation status: Least Concern (Population decreasing)
  • Rank: Species
  • Higher classification: Hog-nosed skunk

Striped Hog-Nosed Skunk

Striped hog-nosed skunks are black in color with a white patch of fur beginning at the back of their neck that spreads out into two white stripes. Their tail is black and white and not as bushy as other species of skunk.

These skunks live in Central and South America (from southern Mexico to northern Peru, and in the extreme east of Brazil). Most of them occupy rocky, sparsely timbered areas.

  • Mass: 4.4 lbs (Adult)
  • Scientific name: Conepatus semistriatus
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Trophic level: Omnivorous
  • Rank: Species
  • Higher classification: Hog-nosed skunk

Humboldt’s Hog-Nosed Skunk

Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunk is also known as the Patagonian hog-nosed skunk because they inhabit the open grassy areas within the Patagonian regions of South Argentina.

Humboldt’s Hog-Nosed Skunk.

These types of skunks have brownish-red fur with two symmetrical stripes on either side, that extends all the way to the tail. They have the signature pig-like nose that is typical of other hog-nosed skunk species as well as long claws which they use to hunt for food such as ground beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets.

  • Scientific name: Conepatus humboldtii
  • Mass: 2.4 lbs (Adult)
  • Conservation status: Least Concern (Population stable)
  • Trophic level: Carnivorous
  • Length: 14 in. (Adult) Encyclopedia of Life
  • Rank: Species

Spotted Skunk Types

There are 4 species of spotted skunks and they are by far the cutest skunks that you can find in the wild. Although, they still spray you with stink gas if they feel threatened.

These types of skunks prefer insects. So spotted skunks play an important role in insect control. Cute and good for the environment! Let’s have a look at the different species.

Eastern Spotted Skunk

Eastern spotted skunks are a small and slender skunk species that inhabit areas of the eastern United States as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. They have thick black fur that has around 4 to 6 broken, white stripe-like patterns. It’s one of the few skunks with no stripes and long hair.

They are also referred to as tree skunks because they are very good at climbing trees in search of fruits and the occasional snake. If you do run into this cute furball, you’d have plenty of time to react to it. These types of skunks stomp around and perform handstands as a warning before they spray.

  • Scientific name: Spilogale putorius
  • Trophic level: Omnivorous
  • Conservation status: Least Concern (Population decreasing)
  • Mass: 1.3 lbs (Adult)
  • Gestation period: 33 days

Western Spotted Skunk

As the name suggests, this little skunk inhabits areas in the western parts of North America. Western spotted skunks have bold black and creamy white stripes. There are three longitudinal stripes on each side of the front part of the body, and three vertical stripes on the hind-parts.

One way to tell the difference between the western and eastern spotted skunks is that the western spotted skunk has more visible white coats. These skunks raise their tails, stomp, hiss, charge, scratch, before taking aim to spray foes with a foul-smelling ejection of liquid.

  • Scientific name: Spilogale gracilis
  • Conservation status: Least Concern (Population decreasing)
  • Rank: Species
  • Higher classification: Spotted skunks
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Kingdom: Animalia

Southern Spotted Skunk

Are you starting to notice a pattern with these skunk names? The southern spotted skunk lives in areas of Costa Rica to southern Mexico. These skunks mostly resemble the western spotted skunk. Like most other types of skunks, they are nocturnal hunters and typically feed on small mammals, insects, birds, eggs, grain, and fruit.

  • Scientific name: Spilogale angustifrons
  • Conservation status: Least Concern (Population stable)
  • Rank: Species

Pygmy Spotted Skunk

Nope, there isn’t a northern spotted skunk! Instead, the pygmy spotted skunk is only found in Mexico. They have a black coat with distinctive white markings on its forehead and 2-6 white stripes over its back and sides.

They’re nocturnal creatures and prefer to flee when threatened. However, like all skunks, if things get really tough, the pygmy spotted skunk will spray a foul-smelling liquid when needed.

  • Scientific name: Spilogale pygmaea
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Mephitidae
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Rank: Species

Hooded Skunks

These furry skunks get their name from the white cape-like fur that covers their head and necks. Some are completely black save for a white hood and some white areas on the tail. Others have a single wide, white dorsal stripe. The tails of hooded skunks are longer and their fur is softer than that of the striped skunk.

They are also known as the southern skunk, long-tailed Mexican skunk, or the white-sided skunk. They inhabit areas of the Southwestern United States all the way down to Costa Rica in Central America.

Hooded skunks can live in several habitats, from dry lowlands to boreal forests or plateaus, and many habitats in between. These skunks may be found in high-elevation ponderosa pine forests, deciduous forests, forest edges, riparian zones, rocky canyons, grasslands, pastures, and arid desert lowlands. In Oaxaca, Mexico, where they are the most common skunk species, they prefer grasslands and marshes over scrublands.

  • Scientific name: Mephitis macroura
  • Higher classification: Mephitis
  • Rank: Species
  • Family: Mephitidae
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata

Stink Badgers

There are two species of stink badgers which, despite the name, are actually skunk. The Sunda stink badger and Palawan stink badger.

Sunda Stink Badger

The Sunda stink badger, also called the Javan stink badger, teledu, Malay stink badger, Malay badger, Indonesian stink badger, and Sunda skunk is a mammal endemic to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Sunda stink badgers have coarse fur that is either black or very dark brown over most of its body. There is a white stripe running from the top of its head to the tail. Their tails are short and covered in white fur.

These types of skunks prefer to play dead when threatened. However, if that fails, they resort to deploying a stream of foul-smelling liquid at foes.

  • Scientific name: Mydaus javanensis
  • Mass: 5.5 lbs (Adult)
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Trophic level: Omnivorous
  • Length: 17 in. (Adult)
  • Rank: Species

Palawan Stink Badger

The Palawan stink badger, also known as the pantot, is named for its resemblance to badgers, its powerful foul odor, and the largest island to which it is indigenous Palawan.

These species have a short tail and pointed snout. Its fur is dark brown with a light yellow patch on the top of its head that fades down to the shoulders into a stripe. Unlike the Sunda stink badger, Palawan stink badger will attack and spray foes with its foul-smelling liquid at the first chance it gets.

There are 12 species of skunks but there are 5 types of skunks that stand out the most. No matter the species though, they all have the same thing in common,