Being able to see is a pretty important survival strategy for wild animals. You may have come across an easily startled skunk in your yard and wondered ‘are skunks blind?’
Skunks are not blind but they have extremely poor vision. Skunks can only see up to 3m (10ft) in front of them. As skunks are nocturnal their eyesight has adapted better to changes in light conditions rather than visual acuity. Baby skunks are born blind and will start to develop their eyesight around 3 weeks old.
If you’re curious to learn more about skunks use they eyesight and other sense, then keep reading. This guide will take you through everything you want to know about a skunk’s vision.
Let’s jump in.
Do Skunks have good eyesight?
Skunks have really poor eyesight. As nocturnal foragers, they see better in low light conditions. A skunk’s eyes will only let them see what’s directly in front of them. Due to this skunks have to use other senses such as smell, hearing, and touch to navigate their surroundings.
Skunks rely on using their sight along with other senses to keep themselves safe from predators and also to find excellent foods sources.
How Good is Skunk Eyesight?
Like most wild animals, skunks rely on their eyes to navigate their environment and forage for food.
A skunk’s eyesight is very different from what we see as humans. They don’t have the same depth, visual acuity, or color range that we do.
Depth of Vision
Skunks can only see a short distance of 3m (10ft) in front of them. This means they can only see what is very close to them. They won’t be able to see anything past this distance. This can cause skunks to startle very easily. As skunks can’t see too far away they can use their defense mechanisms to warn whatever is close by that they are aware of their presence.
Skunks don’t need to see at long distances as it wouldn’t be much use to them in the dark.
The detail which skunks can see is very poor. Yet skunks can see much clearer in the night than they can in daylight. Skunks don’t have overly large eyes, which may be one of the reasons they have poor vision.
Yet their pupils are quite large which helps them to adjust to low light conditions at night. This is because they have lots of rod cells and a tapetum layer that reflects light back rather than absorb it like humans.
If a bright light is shone into a skunk’s eyes at night then they will have an amber color reflect back. This is known as eyeshine which can double the amount that skunks can see during the night.
Just like with details, seeing colors at night is not much help for a skunk. That means they have very poor color vision as it’s not required.
Despite popular belief that skunk only sees in black and white, they can see slightly more than this. Skunks are dichromatic which means they very limited color range and can mainly see shades of blue, yellow, and grey.
Using other senses
Skunks use their eyesight to survive, but as it’s poor then the skunk can’t rely on it alone for survival. For this reason, skunks will use their other senses to function as best as they can.
Let’s look at the other sense that skunks use to assist their vision.
Skunks have an excellent sense of smell. That’s why you’ll often see a skunk navigating around with its nose to the ground.
Their eyesight will help them to see only a few steps ahead, but their nose will help them to move towards a good food source. That means a skunk is likely to smell food before it can see it.
The skunk’s sense of smell can become easily overpowered and can alert them to any danger that may be ahead. If a skunk smells predator urine then they’ll avoid the area as it’s a good sign that they are nearby.
The skunk’s sense of smell is so important that they can easily be deterred by irritating their noses.
Skunks need to have an excellent sense of hearing to help alert them to any signs of danger. Owls are the main predator of skunks. They wouldn’t be able to detect an attack using their eyesight and sense of smell alone.
Hearing is very important to nocturnal animals like the skunk. As loud sudden noises during the night usually indicate there is danger around.
Skunks have cupped ears which helps them to take in more sounds. They also have asymmetrical hearing which allows them to locate exactly where a sound is coming from.
Skunks are able to hear the sounds that other animals make which can alert them to signs of danger in the area. Hearing can also help skunks to locate one another during mating season. It also helps them to interact with other foraging nocturnal animals such as raccoons.
Skunks have to rely on touch a lot to help them find their way around their environment. As skunks have a pointed snout, this helps them to explore before their eyes can adjust.
Skunks have developed many ways to improve their tactile senses. They will use their fur, paws, tail, and whiskers for feedback.
The pressure or the textures they feel will give skunks a lot of information about the area they are exploring. When combined with their sense of smell, the skunk can quickly make up its mind if the area is safe or an excellent food source.
Skunks have also developed their sense of taste to aid their visual skills. Tastes help skunks to learn what foods are safe to eat and which are toxic.
Skunk have their sense of taste in their tongues. They can use these tastes to find foods that are high in nutrients to help keep them healthy, put on fat for winter, and raise healthy offspring.
Skunks are opportunistic eaters and will really eat what they have the opportunity to. You’ll even find them searching through your trash. Finding taste junk food seems appealing as it is full of fats, sugars, and calories. They’ll want to come back for more, even if it may not be nutritionally good for them.
Are skunks born blind?
Baby skunks are born both blind and deaf. During the first 3 weeks, the skunk’s eyes are sealed shut, so they cannot see anything. This means they are completely reliant on their mother until they are able to open their eyes.
During this time the kits will use their sense of touch and smell to navigate the den. This helps skunks to develop both of these important senses from a very young age.
Can skunks see during the day?
Skunks can still see during the day, yet they see more at night. A skunk’s eyesight is poor at night so it’s a lot worse when they are out during the day. The feedback from the daylight isn’t processed by a skunk’s eyes the same way as a human. That’s why skunks prefer to go out at night.
Skunks that are out during the day are much more likely to be hit by cars. This is because they can’t see the car in the distance and there are more cars about in the daytime hours.
So to wrap up, you know that skunks aren’t blind but they do have really bad eyesight. They will use what eyesight they do have along with their other senses to find food and keep themselves protected from predators.
Skunks have adapted their eyesight for mainly foraging at night rather than the daytime. They see better in low light conditions, and their other body senses are heightened to aid this.
These adjustments are vital to helping skunks to survive as long as possible in the wild.