Badgers and skunks are mammals with a lot in common. Since the two share a few physical similarities, they can often be confused. Still, they are distinctly different species with plenty of differences between them. All it takes is one whiff to know which one you are dealing with and you won’t be likely to make the mistake again! Let’s discover: Badger Vs Skunk; what’s the difference?
Comparing a Badger and a Skunk
|Size||Weight: 24lbs – 30lbs|
Length: 16in – 35in
|Spray||Musk glands. Foul-smelling stink bomb||Special glands. Can launch foul-smelling spray|
|Tail||Small, short tail||Large, bushy tail for warning|
|Color||Black, white, grey, brown, tan||Black, white|
|Distribution||North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia||North and South America|
Key Differences Between a Badger and a Skunk
Badgers and skunks are both animals with the ability to pack a smelly punch, only in different ways. In fact, these two mammals aren’t closely related but have co-evolved the ability to use smell as a defense, causing many to assume their relatedness.
The main differences between a badger and a skunk are their size, their smelly defense mechanism, and their distribution.
When it comes to size, badgers are almost always larger. Although skunks are smaller, they pack their own punch. Skunks can shoot a fluid out of special glands that will repel even the most intent invader. Badgers can repurpose their anal glands that are intended for territorial marking and drop their own stink bomb, but it isn’t as targeted or powerful as skunks. When it comes to distribution, badgers have the edge. Badgers live on almost every continent in the world and have 15 different species. Skunks, however, only live in North and South America, with a disputed species living in Indonesia.
Although these are the main differences, there are a few more that can help us distinguish one from the other. Let’s take a closer look below.
Badger Vs Skunk: Size
One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between badgers and skunks is their size. Badgers are much larger than skunks, averaging between 24-30 lbs. The only time that a skunk and a badger would ever need to be identified by relative size is in North America since it’s the only range that both of them share. The largest species of badger is generally considered to be the European badger. The European badger is commonly used in cartoon descriptions and is often the one that most people are familiar with, although the American badger is a bit smaller and looks similar.
Skunks are small animals that don’t rely on their size and strength as badgers do. As such, they can get by being much smaller, usually 1-15 lbs on average. The largest species of skunk is the Eastern hog-nosed skunk, while the smallest species is the pygmy spotted skunk (although they are incredibly rare and live on Mexico’s western coast).
Badger Vs Skunk: Spray
As far as stinky animals go, badgers and skunks may be the worst. Badgers belong to the mustelid family and are known for their glandular secretions that are used to mark territory. In some species, however, badgers are able to utilize this secretion as a defense mechanism. If threatened, they will drop some of that secretion in an attempt to confuse and frighten the attacker. Although it doesn’t last as long as a skunk’s, it is known to be quite powerful. In fact, some research shows that the African honey badger has such a powerful anal smell that it will literally cause bees to become sluggish, allowing the badger to steal honey.
Skunks are quite famous for their stink, and for good reason. As one of the smelliest animals in the world, predators (and humans) know to stay away. Skunks can spray a special fluid from their stink glands up to 15 feet with stinky precision. At any given time, a skunk can shoot five times before running out of fluid. When you see a skunk raise its tail in the air and hop on its hind legs, it’s probably time to back away slowly. The odor is known to linger for weeks and even months.
Badger Vs Skunk: Tail
When it comes to appearance, the tail is an easy way to tell the difference. Badgers have short, stocky bodies with short, strong tails. A skunk, by comparison, is always fluffy and long since it is used as a warning to potential predators. If you see a skunk tail pop into the air, it’s time to head out!
Badger Vs Skunk: Color
Badgers come in a variety of colors and patterns, mostly depending on the species. The most common colors are black, white, and brown. The European badger is famous for its white and black striped head and all-black body, while the American badger is known for its black and white head, black back, and brown or tan underbellies. Honey badgers are generally black and white, but their coloration is quite distinct. They have a white “cap” and back with a hard switch into black halfway down towards their underside.
Skunks almost exclusively come in black and white and use their coloration as an added form of protection. Similar to how certain poisonous bugs and animals are brightly colored (meaning to STAY AWAY), a skunk’s coloration does the same. The patterns of black and white depend on the species. The two main fur patterns are stripes and spots, with the hog-nosed skunks having striped patterns and spotted skunks having a spotted pattern.
Badger Vs Skunk: Distribution
Badgers are some of the most widespread mustelids across the world. Different species of badger exist in North America (American badger), Africa (honey badger), Europe (European badger), and Asia (Asian badger). Aside from these four common species, there are five other species that are relatively common as well. One interesting note, however, is the Sunda stink badger. Sunda stink badgers are called badgers, but they have the ability to spray a foul-smelling liquid up to 6 inches away. Today, they are actually classified as skunks in the Mephitidae family.
Skunks are only native to North and South America, with 12 total species (including the Sunda stink badger) split into four different Genera. At one point, skunks were classified alongside mustelids but have since been broken off into their own distinct family. Their closest relatives are raccoons and red pandas.
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