The Colors of Skunks

By Skip Davis
Striped skunks are native to forest and grassland habitats.

While all skunks have black and white fur, each species of skunks has distinct fur coloration patterns. The majority of skunks feature black and white stripes running down the length of their bodies, but some species have spot patterns. Although they have different fur patterns, all skunk species share similar habitats, diets and life cycles. All skunks also have the ability to spray a foul odor on potential predators.

Hog-Nosed Skunks

Hog-nosed skunks belong to the Conepatus genus of skunks. These skunks have a broad white stripe running down the dorsal area; the stripe runs from the head to the base of the tail. Some skunks have black hairs in the white fur, but hog-nosed skunks' tails have completely white fur. The remainder of the hog-nosed skunk's body – face, sides and belly – is solid black. Hog-nosed skunks have upturned snouts, making them resemble pigs. Four hog-nosed skunks are in the Conepatus genus: American hog-nosed, or common hog-nosed, Humboldt hog-nosed, Molina's hog-nosed and striped hog-nosed.

Striped Skunks

Native to North America, striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) have white fur stretching across their back; the white fur forms a triangular pattern from the top of the skunk's head to the base of its tail. A large black stripe is in the center of the skunk's white fur; the black stripe starts at the skunk's neck and stops at the tail. Striped skunks have a mixture of black and white fur on their tails. These skunks live throughout the United States and Canada.

Hooded Skunks

Hooded skunks (Mephitis macroura) have two types of fur color patterns. Some hooded skunks have a solid white stripe running from head to tail; these hooded skunks' tails have a combination of black and white fur. Other hooded skunks have two thin white stripes on the left and right sides of their bodies and tails. Hooded skunks are close relatives of striped skunks; both species are in the Mephitis genus. Hooded skunks live in the desert environments of the southwestern United States and Mexico.

Spotted Skunks

As their names suggest, spotted skunks have black fur with white fur spots all over their bodies. Each spotted skunk species has variations on their fur patterns. Western and southern spotted skunks have more white fur on their tails than eastern spotted skunks. Pygmy spotted skunks have three of four solid lines running down their body, in spite of their names. In terms of size, spotted skunks are the smallest in the Mephitidae family. Western and eastern spotted skunks live in the United States, while southern and pygmy spotted skunks are native to Mexico.

About the Author

Skip Davis has been writing professionally since 2005. His work has appeared in "Southern Literary Magazine," on various websites and in graphic panels at the Jackson Zoological Park in Jackson, Miss. Currently living in Southern California, Davis received his Bachelor of Arts in theater at Belhaven College.