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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Skunk diggings and droppings

Striped skunk
(Seneca Falls, NY 8/12)
"Did you tell your Father about the skunk?" Laura said over dinner the other night.
"Skunk? What skunk?" I said with a forkful of food poised at the ready. You see, this is the time of the semester that I challenge my introductory mammal students to a friendly game of "who can see the most mammal species and their sign". The checklist is displayed in the classroom and of course, the honor system is the rule of the land. I had yet to see a skunk, but apparently one was in the lawn the previous night when Danika got home and she stayed in her car for a few minutes to let it gain some distance before coming into the house. (At right is a photo I took earlier this summer)

Lawn damage from skunk
(Seneca Falls, NY 11/12)
I poked around the yard with a flashlight a little with no luck. But the next morning, I did some scouting and found that this guy has been busy in my yard for some time now. What you see in the photos are diggings made by a skunk to search for grubs and other invertebrates. Raccoons do this as well and I am not sure how to tell the difference. I am certain I read an account recently*, so i will have to search for it (and with the magic of electronic editing, amend this entry to make it look like I knew what I was talking about the whole time!). The photo to the left is a particularly deep hole. Note the penny for scale.
*AHA! I found reference I was thinking of. Elbroch's Mammal Track & Sign says (p. 698-99) that skunk digs are conical with the dirt thrown back only a short distance while raccoons have the debris pile farther from the hole.

Now, it is important for me to tell you that I am not a fanatic when it comes to lawn care. In fact, I am not much for yard work of any kind. I look at the digging as an interesting piece of natural history and perhaps a bit of soil aeration. There are several patches in both the front and back yards. Below is a photo that gives you an idea of the extent.

Skunk diggings for grubs
(Seneca Falls NY, 11/12)
 One more photo as I don't think these are showing up well (compensate for quality with quantity is the theory here...):
Skunk digging in lawn
(Seneca Falls NY, 11/12)
The skunk or skunks have left some scat behind as well:

The piles are similar to each other and I must admit that I would be hard pressed to call them skunk without the circumstantial evidence of the holes and the sightings. I checked the camera in the back yard and found this:
Striped skunk
(Seneca Falls, NY 11/12)

But a camera trap capture doesn't count. The sighting must be of a live animal. So last night I took the headlamp out again. This time I didn't make it 15 feet from the door before I could smell him. I heard some movement only 10 feet away and off he scurried! It appeared to be the same white-backed individual captured above. I watched as he waddled under my daughter's car. I have to remember to warn her.....


  1. Skunks are so endearing. One of my favs!
    Great pics of the scat....I'm pretty certain I could never definitively ID that scat as skunk or raccoon in the wild, so having the pics you provided above helps!

  2. Skunk scat, huh? That's cool! AND that "white" skunk is really neat looking... have we seen him before?

    1. I don't think so. He looks close to skunk #2 in this post but only close.. :)

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  4. Your photos really helped me yesterday. I took my first graders out to look for animal evidence around the school. They found a PILE of scat. With the smell under the class, the digging in the lawn and the hole under class, we are certain that it's a skunk. The scat was all in one place and was from many, many days if not weeks of "movements." Who knew that skunks create a bathroom!


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