The striped skunk is a crepuscular (active during twilight hours) animal found all over Northern California. They have an omnivorous diet which includes mice, eggs, carrion, insects, grubs and berries. The striped skunk makes its home in a burrow, under buildings, boulders, or rock piles. They prefer not to dig and instead will take over abandoned fox holes or squirrel burrows.
The skunk is known for its foul odor which is secreted from two anal scent glands. The secretion consists of a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals that smell like a combination of rotten eggs, garlic, and burnt rubber. Skunks can spray up to 10 feet with a high degree of accuracy. Their secretion not only smells bad, it can cause nausea, can produce severe burning, and even temporary blindness.
The striped skunk is attracted to residential areas due to the availability of food, water, and shelter. They may take up residence under porches, decks, and homes. They may also cause damage to personal property when they dig in gardens to find grubs and other insects. They may also roll back sections of sod in order to find a meal.
Skunks are potential carriers of several diseases including leptospitosis, canine distemper, and canine hepatitis. However, they are the primary carrier of rabies in California. Rabies is a viral disease that causes neurological damage and the breakdown of the central nervous system if not treated. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Skunks infected by rabies tend to display specific behavioral symptoms including tame and listless behavior and wandering around during the day. They also have a lack of fear for humans and pets and show aggressive behavior. Outside pets have the greatest risk of contracting rabies from infected skunks and are urged to get a rabies vaccine at a local veterinary clinic.