The Mysterious Appeal of Skunk Scat by Tamia Nelson

Thirteen months ago I published a short article about wildlife scat, and included a photo of skunk scat.

Beetles, ants, and sunflower seeds were dinner for the skunk who left this calling card. Three skunks live in the area, and I’ve met them all at one time or another. Sometimes all three of them will dine on seed left behind at the bird table outside my office window. Their bright white stripes glow in the moonlight, and each skunk is easily distinguished from the others by the unique shape of the white stripes. I’ve become rather fond of Pepé, Pierre, and Big Momma. I’ve crossed paths with them when taking nighttime strolls onto the hillside to get a breath of air before bed. In all the years I’ve lived close to skunks, none has sprayed me with their formidable deterrent. We all give one another elbow room and treat each other with respect.

So where’s the mystery? It’s only this: Since “Who Passed This Way,” there has been a steady trickle of visitors to Outside Up North looking for information about skunk scat. I can’t figure why this could be. Are there lots of others like me who like skunks? I really have no idea. But for those of you who find Tamia Nelson’s Outside through search engine queries for skunk scat, here are some pictures:

Skunk Hole

This is a hole in the lawn, left by one of the skunks burrowing for grubs. I’ve seen them eating the grub. They’re large, pale, succulent sausages that seem to be to skunks what potato chips are to us—you can’t eat just one. If you go outside one morning and find these inverted cone-shaped holes in the lawn, it’s probably a sign that skunks have been helping to keep your yard free of insect pests.

Here’s a blurry nighttime photo of Big Momma:

Big Momma

I think this is the mother of the two other skunks. She’s very large and authoritarian over the smaller skunks, who behave just like young kids when she disciplines them. It’s a terrible picture because Big Momma was busy in her search for grubs under a floodlight, moving constantly, so that even with a high ISO on my camera I couldn’t get a clear picture. Big Momma is distinguished by a nearly all-white back and upper part of her tail, in addition to her large size. Here’s Pepé:


I caught him just before dawn, on his way back home into the woods across the road. He has a black tail, except for the white tip. He’s looking back at me, as you can tell by the thin white stripe down the middle of his face. Right after this long shot was snapped, he ran off into the woods. I’ve not been able to get a picture of Pierre, but maybe this calling card is his:

Skunk Scat

The scat shows signs of sunflower seed husks and bits of vegetation were on the night’s menu.

The nights are below freezing now, and I haven’t seen the skunk family in over a week. They don’t hibernate, but they do have periods of torpor. When they come out of their sleep, I’m sure that they’ll stop by for a visit, and I’ll be happy to greet them. Want to know more about skunks? Then read “Little Stinkers.”

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For half a century, Tamia Nelson has been ranging far and wide by bike, boat, and on foot. A geologist by training, an artist since she could hold a pencil, a photographer since her uncle gave her a twin-lens reflex camera when she was 10, she's made her living as a writer and novelist for two decades. Avocationally her interests span natural history, social history, cooking, art, and self-powered outdoor pursuits, and she has broad experience in mountaineering, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and skiing.