The skunk will only spray when it has exhausted all other defense tactics. These include arching its back, holding its tail erect and stamping its feet. If these fail, the skunk will twist its body into a U-shape - so its head and tail are facing the attacker - and release its musk. The musk, which can be smelled by humans over a mile away, causes discomfort to the eyes of an enemy.
Striped skunks are most active at night, foraging for food under the cover of thick vegetation. They spend the day in sheltered places, such as disused burrows. During the winter, skunks hibernate in their dens, staying underground for between two to three months. Mating takes place in springtime. Litters of up to ten young are born in summer.