13 March 2013

Natural History Sketches: Skunk

One night after teaching letterpress in Halifax I was driving home on our rural highway and had to stop and let a skunk (Mephitis mephitis -- striped skunk) cross the road. It's not uncommon for skunks to be out in the dark hours (porcupines and raccoons are also very common, so I tend to drive slower than most people do in the dark on that road).

What was interesting, though, it that this particular skunk has such wide stripes that it was more white than black. It was so pale I even wondered if my "knowledge" that skunks don't change colour in the winter might be wrong.

Well, skunks don't change colour (like hares do), but it turns out it's actually not that unusual for striped skunks to be nearly white. A quite look through Google images showed that while the usual black and white pattern was the most common, a lot of skunks have stripes either thicker or narrower than the norm, so they vary from nearly all white to nearly all black. There's also a fairly rare paler colour phase in which the usually black parts of the animal are a pale brown.

Anyway, the next day I attempted to remember what I saw well enough to sketch it.

Image © Niko Silvester. Please do not use without permission. Thanks!

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