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🦨 The strong black-and-white patterning of these Oklahoma look-alikes warns potential predators of the smelly consequences that come with disturbing spotted and striped skunks. The shape of the white forehead patch – circular in spotted skunks and linear in striped skunks – is a distinguishing feature for identification.

Watch Wild Double Take: Spotted and Striped Skunks on YouTube.

Find tips for identifying Oklahoma’s look-alike species in our video series on YouTube.

Similarities: The eastern spotted skunk and striped skunk are both nocturnal mammals, and both have strong black-and-white patterning. This “aposematic” coloration is thought to warn potential predators of the skunk’s shared defense mechanism: a smelly spray. Both species have long claws on their forefeet, making them adept diggers. Skunks are considered omnivores and feed on insects, small mammals, and plants. They live in dens and go into a reduced state of activity during the winter. 

Differences: The two look-alike skunks may have similarly colored black and white pelts, but the shape of the white forehead patch – circular in spotted skunks and linear in striped skunks – is a key distinguishing feature. The spotted skunk is smaller in size and tends to have much more interrupted stripes. The striped skunk can be six times heavier and has a stripe that begins on the crown of the head before splitting in two near the shoulders. While both species have been documented across the state, spotted skunks tend to prefer rock outcrops and are known to climb and den in trees. Striped skunks tend to prefer wooded edges. Spotted skunks are much more rare than the more widespread striped skunk, and are considered a species of greatest conservation need in Oklahoma. 

If you see a spotted or striped skunk while exploring Outdoor Oklahoma, consider sharing the sighting on the free nature platform, iNaturalist. Adding a photo to your observation can allow others to help confirm the identification.