February is known for Valentine’s Day. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials, February is also the prime month for breeding season for skunks in Texas. The most common species of skunk in our part of the state is the striped skunk. They have two white stripes on their backs that join in the neck region and they have five toes on each foot. Striped skunks construct their homes wherever a convenient place is found. They are gregarious, living in families from the time the young are old enough to walk until they are able to fend for themselves.
The striped skunk’s breeding season is usually February through March. They have a gestation period of 62-75 days. Most young skunks are born in May. On average, five young are born per litter. Young striped skunks’ eyes and ears open after about 30 days, at which time they are able to musk (spray). They are weaned at 8-10 weeks of age. Once the babies are able to leave their dens, they follow their mother about. Dispersal of family units takes place usually in autumn.
Striped skunks are omnivorous. Insects constitute over ˝ of their diet. They will eat nesting bird’s eggs, field mice, young rabbits, and small reptiles. Skunks have few natural enemies. Most predators are repulsed by the odor of their musk. Skunks have musk glands located at the base of their tail; they have voluntary control over the glands and can control the direction in which the musk is discharged. According to Extension Wildlife Specialists, the glands only contain about one tablespoon of musk at a time. Striped skunks are highly susceptible to being struck by vehicles. Individuals seldom live more than 2 years in the wild. Skunks are highly susceptible to rabies. According to Texas Department of Health records, skunks accounted for 52% of confirmed rabid animals from 1956-2002. This susceptibility to the rabies virus serves to keep populations under control. Other species of skunks found in Texas are spotted, hooded, and hog-nosed skunks.
AgriLife Extension will host a Bermudagrass program Friday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Comanche Community Center. Agenda will include: Bermudagrass Physiology by Dr. James Rogers, Noble Foundation; Weed Control by Dr. Paul Bauman, Texas AgriLife Weed Specialist; Soil Fertility for Bermudagrass by Dr. James Rogers, Pest Identification and Contriol in Bermudagrass- Texas AgriLife Allen Knutson. Program will offer 3 CEU’s 1 IPM, 2 General and 3 DOPA Credits. Fees & lunch are covered by local sponsors.
Please RSVP for the event at 254-965-1460.
Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent. His column appears weekly and online at yourstephenvilletx.com.