Four species of skunks are known in Colorado: striped, eastern and western spotted, and hog-nosed. Sometimes skunks are considered to be their own family, separate from the closely related weasels; certainly skunks are unmistakable: all have the familiar warning colors of white on black. The striped skunk (24 to 32 inches long, weighing to nine pounds) is the largest and most widespread. The spotted skunks are the smallest (16 to 20 inches long) and the most weasel-like in movements. The hog-nosed skunk is nearly as large as the striped skunk; no specimens have been reported in the past half-century, and the species may not live in Colorado now.
The striped skunk is the most widespread, occurring statewide. The spotted skunk occurs in rocky foothills, mesas, canyons and along major rivers of the High Plains. Hog-nosed skunk is known only from the rough lands of southeastern Colorado, where they appear to be rare or perhaps only occasional. This is one of those southwestern mammals that may be expected to expand with climatic warming.
Skunks are omnivores, eating carrion, mice (especially nestlings), fruit, insects, larvae, birds and bird eggs. The spotted skunk is the most agile climber, best “mouser” and “birder.” Hog-nosed skunks seem to “root” for insect larvae more than the other species, but a shallow, snout-sized “test-hole” is a common sign of skunks in general.
Western spotted skunks delay implantation of embryos. They mate in autumn and give birth to young in spring. Eastern spotted skunks and striped skunks have a simple nine-week gestation period, breeding in spring. Spotted skunks have four or five young, and striped skunks average seven young.