Skunks of the Americas
There are nine species of skunk, all endemic to the Americas. They are, of course, best known for their defensive spray, which they can project up to 12 feet (3.75 m). If got in the eyes, it can cause temporarily blindness, but even the surprise and the smell can provide enough of a window for escape.
The smell doesn’t just bother humans - most mammals are also deterred and won’t attack a skunk; the main predator of skunks is actually Great Horned Owls, as most birds have a very poor sense of smell.
Skunks used to be classified in the Family Mustelidae - the weasels and other musk-producing animals - but are now placed in their own family, the Mephitidae.
The Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is the most widespread in North America, found from northern Mexico north into the Canadian boreal forests. Like all skunks, it is omnivorous, but mostly eats invertebrates. It, and other skunks, will sometimes dig at bee nests, eating the guards who come out to investigate and relying on their thick fur to protect them from stings.
photograph by K. Theule/ USFWS - Mountain-Prairie Region
Peterson Field Guides)