Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary
Mammals/Spotted Skunk


Have you ever seen a skunk doing a handstand? If so, I hope you started running! Most people just think of a skunk raising its tail and spraying, but our little spotted skunk actually does a full-fledged handstand to give a good squirt!

It's a wonderful adaptation to be acrobatic enough to do a handstand AND bend your back and neck 'til you can see your target. That way, you can get a REALLY good aim! These skunks are very adept at hitting their targets—even if they're 12 feet or more away! They also know the most sensitive spot, and they try to aim for the eyes.

Skunks are usually very calm and peaceful, though—and they typically warn intruders by stamping their feet before they consider spraying. Although other skunks don't do a full handstand, they can still rear up and spray. So heed their warnings. Even those bold stripes are a warning—to everyone—keep away!
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Kodi R. Jeffery, formerly of the Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

spotted skunk drawing   spotted skunk photo

Left: Spotted Skunk doing a handstand. Drawing © 1999 Zackery Zdinak. Right: Spilogale gracilis. Photographer: Alden M. Johnson. © 1999 California Academy of Sciences.



Crooks, K. 1999. Western Spotted Skunk / Spilogale gracilis. Pp. 183-185, in The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals (D. E. Wilson and S. Ruff, eds.). Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 750 pp.

Web Resources

Mammals of Texas Online