Skunks and raccoons are both known for their distinctive black-and-white appearance. Both are omnivorous, but capable hunters at the same time. They are found in many of the same habitats which can sometimes lead to an interesting clash involving teeth and claws. Raccoons and skunks are pretty evenly matched which means that each needs to use its own advantage and skill to get the better of its adversary. But who will come out on top in the fight of skunk vs raccoon?
Comparing Raccoon vs Skunk
Raccoons and skunks are both small but fierce predators. They are both extremely capable and readily react with their teeth and claws whenever the need arises. Skunks are best known for the incredibly pungent smell that they produce, which wards off all but the most determined of predators. But what happens when these two meet? Join us as we compare raccoons and skunks so we can find out just who would win in a fight.
Check out the chart below to learn a few of the main differences.
|North America, Mexico, Europe, Japan
|North America, South America
|Moist woodlands, mountainous regions, urban areas
|Forests, woodlands, grasslands, deserts, urban areas
|Length – 16 to 28 inches (excluding the tail)
Weight – 11 to 57 pounds
|Length – 15 to 37 inches
Weight – 1 to 18 pounds
|10 – 15mph
|Excellent swimmers; can remain in the water for several hours
|Can swim but prefer to avoid it
|Excellent night vision
|Insects, worms, crayfish, fish, frogs, bird eggs, fruit, nuts, acorns
|Honeybees, worms, birds, rodents, lizards, frogs, snakes, berries, leaves, nuts
|Hawks, owls, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions
|Great horned owls (main), coyotes, mountain lions, badgers, and foxes (all rarely)
|2 – 3 years
The 5 Key Differences Between Skunks and Raccoons
The main differences between skunks and raccoons are size, teeth, speed, eyesight, and defense mechanisms. Raccoons are heavier than skunks but are not as long. They can also run faster and have better eyesight. However, skunks have an excellent defense mechanism that only the very brave can get past.
Let’s discuss all of these differences in more detail below.
Skunk vs Raccoon: Size
Although there is some variation in the size of skunks and raccoons depending on the individual species or subspecies, skunks reach around 15 and 37 inches in length, while raccoons are between 16 and 28 inches. However, raccoons weigh between 11 and 57 pounds, while skunks only weigh between 1 and 18 pounds. This means that skunks are typically longer, but raccoons are usually heavier. So, where does this leave us in our fight analysis? The greater weight of raccoons is more likely to be an advantage than the longer body of the skunk.
Skunk vs Raccoon: Spray
One of the most distinctive traits of a skunk is its ability to produce and spray a strong-smelling liquid from its anal glands which it uses as a defense mechanism. This spray is a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals and has an extremely foul smell that is strong enough to be detected by a human 3.5 miles away. Skunks carry enough liquid for five or six sprays. Most predators such as wolves and foxes rarely attack skunks out of fear of being sprayed.
Skunk vs Raccoon: Speed
Both skunks and raccoons can reach fairly high speeds for their size that they are. Skunks can reach a top speed of 10mph, while raccoons can reach 10 to 15mph in short bursts. However, raccoons are also extremely capable swimmers and can reach an average speed of 3mph in the water. Although skunks are able swimmers, they prefer not to be in the water. This is a complete contrast to raccoons who can spend many hours in the water with no ill effects.
Skunk vs Raccoon: Senses
One of the most important things to any animal is its ability to see, hear, or smell a predator or prey. Despite skunks being extremely capable in many other areas, one thing they are not so good at is seeing. In fact, skunks can only really see light changes and they can’t see objects that are more than 10 feet away from them. Compared to this, raccoons have excellent night vision.
Additionally, raccoons have a “hypersensitive” sense of touch. Their front paws are covered with a tough, horny layer that becomes softer and pliable when wet. As there is no webbing between their toes, their digits look more like small fingers. Their paws are so sensitive and nimble that they can grasp and manipulate things with remarkable ease.
Skunk vs Raccoon: Teeth
Raccoons and skunks also have different numbers of teeth – with raccoons having 40 but skunks only having 34. However, having fewer teeth doesn’t mean that a skunk’s teeth are any less effective. Skunks have sharp and prominent canine teeth for piercing and killing prey. They also have (like most other meat-eaters) a set of carnassial teeth. The carnassial teeth in skunks are very well-developed and blade-like. They work with a shearing action to slice through the flesh. The first upper molar is also a particularly broad crushing tooth.
Although raccoons also have a set of carnassial teeth, they are more adapted to their omnivorous diet. This is because their carnassials are not as sharp or pointed as fully carnivorous animals, while their molars are not as broad as those of herbivores.
Skunk vs Raccoon: Who Would Win in a Fight?
A showdown between a skunk and a raccoon would be evenly matched, with both sides having a good chance. They both use a similar hunting technique that consists of a swift bite and the use of their extremely sharp claws when necessary, so there’s no chink in the armor of either in that department. When we consider the points that we’ve discussed, they both have certain advantages over the other. Skunks have teeth that are slightly more suited to a fight, and their best defense is their spray. However, raccoons are slightly faster, have superior eyesight, particularly nimble hands, and have more weight behind them – all of which would swing the fight in their favor. Despite this, the outcome of the fight could well come down to whether or not the raccoon can brave the pungent smell of the skunk long enough to overpower it.
Could a Raccoon Beat a Housecat in a Fight?
The raccoon and the skunk were so evenly matched that we couldn’t decide on a definite victor. But, how would a raccoon do in a fight against an animal that is close to its size – as was the skunk – but falls under the category of a highly skilled predator? How would the wily raccoon do against an animal with a motivation to hunt that is so strong that it preys on small birds and mammals even after eating an entire bowl of “fancy feast”? That’s right, let’s put the raccoon up against the mighty housecat!
An average cat weighs between 7 – 10 lbs (a Maine Coon would be bigger – but for this fight, we are going with an average cat). Raccoons weigh between 7 and 20 – so they would have the size advantage. It would be almost impossible to ambush a cat – they rank among the best in hearing for small mammals and can see well at night. Speaking of ambush – that’s the cat’s predatory style and they are great at it! Domestic cats hunt like little lions and tigers by stalking unsuspecting prey, choosing the perfect time to ambush, and then going for the neck and holding on.
Cats would also win the speed and agility contest but while they can climb trees – they aren’t as skilled as raccoons in that area. Both animals scratch and bite, but here, their fight styles will make the difference. Cats rely on the surprise attack and would never go for a raccoon that outweighs them. This fictitious fight would mean the raccoon attacked the cat and it would be defending itself. Raccoons are vicious fighters – sort of like bears – who slash and bite and mangle their victims to the finish. Their long incisors can deliver deep wounds causing blood loss.
Sadly, the cat would probably come out as the loser. Hopefully, the poor kitty knew when to run to safety with their superior speed!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Svetlana Chernyshova/Shutterstock.com
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are skunks and raccoons from the same family group?
No, skunks and raccoon are from different family groups. Skunks are from the family Mephitidae which comprises of skunks and stink badgers (the closest relatives of skunks). Raccoons are from the family Procyonidae which is a New World family that includes ringtails, olingos, and olinguitos amongst others. Most members of this family group are omnivorous and have poorly developed carnassial teeth.
How many species of skunks and raccoons are there?
There are currently twelve recognized species of skunks and 22 subspecies of raccoons.
Are raccoons and skunks solitary animals?
Although it was once believed that raccoons were solitary animals, it has since been observed that they live in small groups. Related females often share feeding and resting grounds while unrelated males tend to stay in small bachelor groups. However, skunks are solitary animals outside of the breeding season.
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