Striped Skunk - Mephitis mephitis
About the size of a house cat. Well-developed scent glands that emit a very strong odor. Often the presence of a skunk is first detected by its odor. Black body, narrow white stripe on middle of the forehead, broad white area on nape that usually divides into a V at the shoulders. Great variation in color pattern and size of stripes. Total length: 20 to 28 inches. Weight: six to 14 pounds. Mostly nocturnal and does not hibernate. Uses ground burrows, abandoned building foundations, and wood or rock piles as den sites. Will use dens created by other animals. When frightened or threatened, sprays a strong and long-lasting musk produced by anal scent glands.
A few specimens of the Spotted Skunk have been captured in Montana. The Spotted Skunk has a black spot on forehead, one under each ear, and four broken white strips along neck, back, and sides.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Lives in a variety of habitats including semi-open country, mixed woods, brushland, and open prairie. Most abundant in agricultural areas where there is ample food and cover. Usually absent where water table is too high for making ground dens. Forest edges, open woodland, brushy grassland, riparian vegetation, cultivated lands (Hoffmann and Pattie 1968).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: mtnhp.org/requests
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Human Land Use
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Sparse and Barren Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Omnivorous, eating more animal than plant matter. Proportional composition of diet varies. Small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, berries, fruit, garbage, cariion, bird eggs, and arthropods (Jones et al. 1983).
Adults are solitary except during breeding season, and in communal winter dens. Can carry a heavy parasite load, sometimes rabies (Jones et al. 1983).
Mating occurs during February and April; 59 to 77 days gestation; may exhibit delayed implantation; young born during May or June; five to six young is the usual litter size.
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Hoffmann, R.S. and D.L. Pattie. 1968. A guide to Montana mammals: identification, habitat, distribution, and abundance. University of Montana, Missoula. 133 pp.
- Jones, J.K., D.M. Armstrong, R.S. Hoffmann and C. Jones. 1983. Mammals of the northern Great Plains. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 379 pp.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
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R-11, Job No. II-1, July 1, 1979 - June 30, 1980.
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R-12, Job No. II-1, July 1, 1980 - June 30, 1981.
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R-13, Job No. II-1, July 1, 1981 - June 30, 1982.
- Cross, James, and Richard P. Weckwerth, 1983, Upland Game Bird (and Fur Survey) Inventory. Wildlife Investigations, Region One. W-130-
R-14, Job No. II-1, July 1, 1982 - June 30, 1983.
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- Foresman, K.R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. American Society of Mammalogists, Special Publication Number 12. Lawrence, KS. 278 pp.
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- Hanauska-Brown, L., B.A. Maxell, A. Petersen, and S. Story. 2014. Diversity Monitoring in Montana 2008 – 2010 Final Report. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Helena, MT. 78 pp.
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- Land & Water Consulting, Inc., Missoula, MT., 2002, Montana Dept. of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Report, Year 2002: Cow Coulee, Townsend, Montana. Proj. No. 130091.013. February 2003. In 2002 Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports, Vol. I.
- Martin, P.R., K. Dubois and H.B. Youmans. 1981. Terrestrial wildlife inventory in selected coal areas, Powder River resources area final report. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Bureau of Land Management, Helena, MT. No. YA-553-CTO- 24. 288 p.
- Matthews, W.L. 1980a. Wibaux-Beach comparison study: Sydney, Glendive and Plevna Study Areas. Bureau of Land Management, Miles City, MT. 50 p.
- Matthews, W.L. 1981. Broadus-Pumpkin Creek baseline inventory - wildlife. Bureau of Land Management, Miles City, MT. 83 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2016. Northern Goshawk surveys on the Beartooth, Ashland, and Sioux Districts of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest: 2012-2014. Montana Natural Heritage Program. Helena, MT. 114pp.
- Montana Dept. of State Lands, 1976, Draft environmental impact statement for proposed open cut mining contract for Amercan Colloid Company. November 12, 1976.
- Montana Greater Sage-Grouse Working Group. 2000. Management plan and covservation strategies for Greater Sage-Grouse in Montana.
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- Pengeroth, D. 1991. Characteristics of a striped skunk population in the Mission Valley, Montana. M.S. thesis, University of Montana, Missoula.
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- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Mammals"