A quick walk outside the other day prompted me to suggest this nature challenge.  Actually, it was the sharp odor that got my attention.

Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) live in almost all regions of North America.   Right about now, they are at the peak of their mating season.   As a result, it may be easier to find evidence that they are nearby.

First, let’s start with tracks.  If you see a track just less than an inch long to about 1 1/2 inches long, with pad, five digits, and possible claw points, this is likely a skunk track.  The front feet are longer than the hind feet, but the hind feet have larger pads. 

Next, let’s consider their habitat and food.   Skunks will eat almost anything available to them, but their diet consists primarily of insects.  They seem to prefer somewhat open areas such as farmland, grasslands, brushy areas, and some woodlands.  They also seem to be adaptable to suburban areas where you may find them burrowing under some buildings.  Otherwise, they may be denning near rocky outcrops or they may be at the other end of that conical tunnel in your yard or garden.  

Finally, follow your nose.  That acrid sulfuric smell tells you that you are on the right trail.  Or rather, that perhaps you should find another.  Male skunks do expel bursts of scent to attempt to attract a mate.  Females, who reject a suitor, will also expel a burst to signal that she is not interested.   Furthermore, there seems to be a greater level of activity of this kind in the early morning and early evening.  

Armed with this information, you should be able to find, or rather, avoid striped skunks. 

This challenge is rated easy. 

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