Mammals of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Striped Skunk - Mephitis mephitis
Mephitidae Members:
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Photo by: Joe Shimel
Distribution In NC, it currently ranges throughout the mountains, nearly throughout the Piedmont, and sparingly in the northern half of the Coastal Plain (but mainly in counties near the Virginia line). Prior to the 1980's, it occurred southeastward to the southern half of the Coastal Plain, north to Johnston and Beaufort counties. However, it declined steeply in recent decades in the Coastal Plain, and until recently is was essentially extirpated from the province and the southeastern corner of the Piedmont. However, it is making a comeback, and it has been found in some northern Coastal Plain counties (south to Beaufort, Jones, and Greene counties) and in the northeastern Piedmont; however, it seems to be absent over most of the Coastal Plain now.

The most widely distributed skunk, ranging from the Pacific to the Atlantic, covering nearly all of the coterminous 48 states and southern Canada.
Abundance This is a common medium-sized mammal across most of its overall range; many are killed on roads. In NC, it is relatively common in the mountains, fairly common in the foothills and western Piedmont, mostly uncommon in the central and eastern Piedmont, and rare to uncommon in the northern Coastal Plain. It appears to be absent over most of the Coastal Plain now. The species is clearly increasing in the northeastern Piedmont and adjacent northern Coastal Plain, for unknown reasons. Note that the iNaturalist website contains photos for the many of the state's mountain and Piedmont counties, and the editors have not taken the time to update the map with "Photo" records/documentation unless the county had previously no known records (white on the map). There are, indeed, many recent photos from the southern half of the mountains, but none from the southern half of the Coastal Plain, corroborating the present-day "absence" of skunks from this southeastern part of the state. The State Rank can probably be moved from S4 to S5 by the N.C. Natural Heritage Program, especially considering that the much rarer Eastern Spotted Skunk currently has a rank of S3, and all adjacent states rank it as S5.
Seasonal Occurrence Occurs year-round, and it is not migratory (in elevation).
Habitat The Striped Skunk occurs in a variety of forested and field habitats, mainly in a mosaic of such habitats. Rocky and other upland forested areas are favored; it seldom occurs in floodplains and other wetlands. It regularly occurs in wooded or semi-wooded residential areas, more so in the mountains than well downstate.
See also Habitat Account for General Mixed Habitats
Behavior Strictly nocturnal, and thus rarely seen except as roadkills.
Comments This species undergoes widespread and somewhat mysterious die-offs, and then local increases. Lee et al. (1982) "assume that various diseases periodically eliminate skunks over sizable portions of their range". For example, range maps in Lee et al. (1982) and other books indicate that it occurs throughout the Piedmont, but it has been nearly absent from well-studied Wake County for several decades, though it is now returning in small numbers.
Origin Native
NC List Official
State Rank S4 [S5]
State Status
Global Rank G5
Federal Status
subspecies Mephitis mephitis elongata
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all database records for species in that county.