Skunks are legendary for their horrible-spelling spray, a smell that’s been described as a not-so enticing mix of garlic, rotten eggs and burnt rubber. At the future Patagonia National Park, we have a skunk of our own–the Patagonian hog-nosed skunk—that we’ve come to love and appreciate.
These creatures are found throughout Patagonia Chile and Argentina and south of the Strait of Magellan. The reason for their name? Look no further than the hairless and flat nose that indeed resembles that of a hog. Skunks are mostly black in color with a reddish-brown coloring on their backs and in their wide, bushy tails. A white band runs across the forehead and extends down in two symmetrical stripes on each side of the back until just under the tail.
Not too large but by no means slight, the Patagonian skunk’s body ranges from 20 to 48 cm in length (8 to 19 in) while the tail can measure from 13 to 38 cm (5 to 15 in). They weigh anywhere from 198g to 6 kg (7oz to 14 lbs.) and each female births between two and ten offspring each year.
Here in the future Patagonia National Park, it’s not an easy task to spot a skunk, although they are quite abundant. This is because they live in areas of bushy vegetation and grasslands, relatively well hidden and also because they search for food at night. Skunks aren’t super picky when it comes to food and their diet consists of insects and sometimes fruit, seeds, amphibians, invertebrates and birds.
And now, those infamous scent glands. Like all varieties of skunks, the Patagonia skunk’s glands are located near the anus and produce a combination of chemical compounds known as thiols or mercaptans. The result is an oily liquid spray, a powerful tool against potential attackers. To employ this smelly weapon, the skunk turns around, aims and hits its attacker with a mist that can travel as far as 3 meters (10 feet). If the mist reaches the face area it can cause irritation and even temporary blindness.
So if you do happen to run into a Patagonian hog-nosed skunk while visiting, remember—look but please don’t touch!