Variations in Striped Skunks

Two striped skunks patients, one nearly all white and one nearly all black.

“What kind of skunk is this? Isn’t this one different?”

“Isn’t it supposed to have more black?”

“Is it going to get more white when it gets older?”

We see these questions a lot about our striped skunk patients! Skunks have highly variable markings, and we routinely see patients who are nearly all-black or nearly all-white. These are all normal variations and not a sign of a medical problem.

The majority of wild skunks have classical markings that are predominantly black with a stripe on the snout and a spot on the head that splits on each side to create a V-shaped white mark, which extends to down the back and into the tail. These markings direct potential predators’ eyes to the skunk’s rear end, as a warning of where it carries its chemical weapon.

About 5% of striped skunks in East Tennessee have “star” markings, without the “V” shape, and with only. White mark on the head. Some “shooting star” skunks have very small, thin trails that lead down the shoulders but not the rest of the back.

While exotic color variations like chocolate, champagne, lilac, and blue occur often in captivity, they are very rare to nonexistent in the wild. Unusual colors usually result from inbreeding and make skunks less recognizable to predators, so they are more likely to be targeted as prey.

We love all of our skunk patients and enjoy seeing the diversity of the animal world. Despite the differences between individuals, all of the skunks we have received are normal variations of one species, the striped skunk.

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