Skunks During the Daytime

Skunks in Daytime

The stark black and white stands out like a beacon in the amber fall landscape. For a fraction of a second, I thought I’d found a badger. That’s the only striped animal I expect on this landscape. But the color, body shape, and floof of a tail all said skunk. It’s unusual to see skunks during the daytime, so I parked the car, grabbed my camera, and went to check her out.Skunks in DaytimeI’d heard that skunks don’t see very well. I realize the imminent risk in this bit of information being inaccurate. I’m reminded of a backcountry camping trip in Alaska when our guide said, “I heard bears don’t like to walk on tarps,” as he laid out a blue plastic tarp on the trail leading to our campsite. “You heard???”

Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. Regardless, I continued through the tall grass toward the skunk.Skunks in DaytimeI stopped beyond “spray range” at a good vantage point. I waited for the skunk to meander into the clearings as she foraged. She grubbed along, eating insects, head down, intent on her task. I was downwind, and she didn’t look in my direction, but maybe she heard me? She puffed out her beautiful flowing tail but didn’t raise it. She continued eating. I stopped photographing to watch her without distraction, to be fully in tune with her mood. Then she turned toward me and stopped, raising her tail fully vertical like a sail. I’m sure what this means. I retreated.

The skunk’s tail relaxed, and she went back to rooting around. As I walked away, I looked back and was compelled by her beauty – that long, silky black and white flowing coat. I turned back but in a different direction, parallel to her path, and stayed further away. I wanted to get a clearer view. Even though her coat and markings are the draw, a decent photograph needs a face.I enjoyed my time with her, and she was mostly relaxed about my presence – whether she could see me or not.

skunk tracks Skunk footprints. Note the long nails designed for digging.

(After I came home, I looked into it. Skunks have poor peripheral vision. They can only see directly ahead for about fifteen feet. Therefore, they are easily startled. They can aim and spray ten to twenty feet, although they’d rather not. It’s costly for them to spray. It can take up to two weeks for their glands to recharge, during which time they are exceedingly vulnerable to predation).

Over the next three days in Point Reyes National Seashore, I would see skunks out foraging daily! What an unexpected delight.

Skunks in Daytime Pretty sure I’ve been seen! This skunk never raised her tail, or even floofed it.


“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” – Mary Oliver 

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