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On Skunk species (Memphitis Memphitis) - Research Paper Example

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Name of of Professor 25 April 2011 About the Animal Mephitis mephitis is the scientific name for striped skunk which is well known for its characteristic foul smelling musky odor. In fact its scientific name actually means ‘noxious gas, noxious gas’ (Kaweah Oaks) Skunks were once classified in the weasel family of Mustelidae, but more recent genetic investigations have led taxonomists to group all skunks into a subfamily of the weasel family called Mephatinae (Wood)…
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Download file to see previous pages Hooded Skunk (Mephitis macroura). Among these five species of skunks, the striped skunks are the largest. Striped skunks weigh up to fourteen pounds and are about the size of a house cat. They have a stout body, small head, short legs with webbed toes and a bushy tail. The thick, glossy fur is black in color with a thin white stripe down the centre of the face and a broad white stripe beginning on the back of the head which usually divides into two stripes continuing along the back. The long, bushy tail is a mixture of white and black hair. The legs have long, straight claws which they use for digging and ripping apart things as they search for food. Male striped skunks are somewhat bigger than their female counterparts. The skunk has small eyes and ears. Although it can not see well, it has a good sense of smell and hearing. Habitat and Habits The striped skunks are adaptable but prefer open areas of mixed forests and grasslands. They generally live in the abandoned dens of woodchucks, foxes or other mammals of similar or larger size and only occasionally excavate their own dens (Encyclopedia Britannica). Since they have very little fear of humans they often inhabit developed areas and nest in houses, walls, basements, culverts and beneath buildings, wood and rock piles. The striped skunks are usually not more than two miles away from water. Although striped skunks can dig their own dens, they seem to prefer moving into ones constructed by other animals. These dens may have one to five well-hidden openings that lead to a system of tunnels and chambers (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point). They line one of the chambers with leaves and use it as a nest. The leaves are also used to plug the openings to the den during cold weather. A skunk gathers leaves by placing them under its body and then shuffling along to the den with the leaves held between its legs as it moves. Skunks are primarily nocturnal i.e., they are active at night and usually solitary animals. However, mother skunks can often be noticed with their offspring in tow. Skunks leave their den to rummage for food at any hour of the day. However, they are usually away from late afternoon or evening through the night. They usually move within a radius of about 800 m from the den looking for food but may go as far away as 2 km in a night (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point). Males become more active during the breeding season and can travel as much as 8 km in a night. Adaptation Skunks are active throughout the year but go into a state of torpor inside their dens during the coldest spells of winter (Welcome Wildlife). They prepare for the winter by going on eating binges in the fall and developing a heavy layer of fat and a thick coat. Unlike hibernation, which involves significant drop in body temperature and considerably slow heart rate wherein the creature takes only about one or two breaths per minute, striped skunks go into sporadic groggy sleep intermittent with periods of active and awake time. Studies have shown that the heart rate, body temperature and respiration of skunks drop only a little. Skunks take long torpor naps in their dens and come out to empty their scent glands and look for food when the temperature becomes warm even slightly. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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