Posts Tagged ‘Eastern spotted skunk’

When I was a little boy, my grandmother once told me that one of her childhood dogs killed a civet cat.  I was old enough to know that civets lived in Africa and Asia, so when I got the chance, I asked my dad if grandma had ever been to Africa.  He said “No.” And the whole discussion ended.

I always wondered what grandma was talking about.

When I first started this blog, I was a little confused about the existence of spotted skunks in West Virginia. I asked if anyone had seen a spotted skunk in West Virginia, and of course, I got no response.

But it turns out there are some. It turns out that they are found only in the High Alleghenies, where the snow falls hard every winter.

This perplexed me.  I had always thought of Eastern spotted skunks as being a more or less “Southern” species, and although I often saw range maps of the species that included almost the entire state, I had never knew anyone who had seen one.

But maybe I did.

It turns out that one of the vernacular names for the spotted skunk is “civet cat.”

And that’s when the little anecdote my grandmother told me made a bit more sense. Her childhood dog had killed a “civet cat,” but it had most likely killed a spotted skunk.

As for that broad range map I linked to earlier, I think the reason the range appears to be so truncated now is that the spotted skunk was reviled in much of its range as a vector of rabies. Another common vernacular name for spotted skunk is “phoby cat”– “phoby” is short for “hyrdophobia” (often “hydrophoby” in some dialects)– it is very likely that there was massive persecution of spotted skunks in the lower elevations of the state.

It was just too hard to settle and farm in the higher mountains, and those mountains provided some sort of refuge for what is really a more subtropical species than one would typically find in such snowy country.

My grandmother’s childhood dog likely killed one of the few spotted skunks left in the lower elevations of West Virginia.

But I liked to pretend that she had gone to Africa.

Boyhood flights of fancy are tough to beat.

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This is a pet spotted skunk:


“Stinking spotted weasel.”

But it’s not a weasel!

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This is for my readers in West Virginia only (if I have any).

Have you ever seen a spotted skunk in West Virginia?

Eastern spotted skunks. Supposedly native to West Virginia.

I’ve lived in the northern and central parts of the state, and I’ve never seen one.

Supposedly, West Virginia is within their native range.

But according to our state DNR mammal checklist, the Eastern spotted skunk is “uncommon.”

Understatement of the week.

I’ve never seen one here. In fact, I’ve never seen one period, so if I’m posting photos of the wrong species of spotted skunk on this blog, my apologies!

I’ve never heard anyone ever talk about them.

Except that I vaguely remember my grandmother talking about a dog killing a “civet cat,” which is a vernacular term for a spotted skunk.

But that was a story I remember from my childhood, and it may have been related to me seeing an African civet of some sort on television.


Eastern spotted skunks have the best scientific name ever:

Spilogale putorius

“Stinking spotted weasel.”

Ah, but they aren’t weasels.



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