Skunks are omnivorous and feed on mice, insects, grubs, eggs and berries. Their long front claws are used to dig up their insect prey, and cone shaped holes in the ground are evidence of their feeding. Normally docile animals, skunks will use several warning signs such as foot stomping, snorting and shuffling backwards. If these warnings are ignored, they will spray their attackers with a burning sulfur smelling jet that can reach up to 10 feet away. Along with Raccoons, Skunks are one of the primary carriers of rabies in the wild.
Southern Flying Squirrel
Flying Squirrels feed on a variety of seeds, nuts, insects and bird eggs. They are strictly nocturnal and spend the day sleeping in cavities in trees. They do not truly fly, but use a fold of skin between their front and rear legs to form a “parachute”, which allows them to glide for distances of up to 160 feet. Their tail is flat and serves as a rudder to guide their “flight” through tall trees.
This masked bandit was selected as the official Tennessee State Wild Mammal in 1972. They eat a large variety of foods including fruits, nuts, grains, insects, frogs, crayfish, and bird eggs. Raccoons love to dunk their food in water before eating and are often found near water. They have nimble fingers which allow them to locate prey in small crevices. Their hands can also easily turn doorknobs, remove garbage can lids and even pick up small coins.
The “possum” is the only marsupial (pouched mammal) found in North America. Its young are born after only 13 days and are only the size of a bumble bee. The tiny babies crawl into the mother’s pouch where they remain for about 2 months. When they outgrow their mothers pouch, young opossums often ride around on their mother’s back.
Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl found in the Smoky Mountains, with a wing span of almost 4 feet. Easily identified by the large feather tufts or “plumicorns” on the head that resemble cat ears, they are heard more often than they are seen. Their characteristic Hoo Hoohoo call can be heard all through the night. They hunt by using their exceptional senses of hearing and sight, and feed primarily on medium sized mammals. Their sense of smell however is not very good, allowing them to be one of the few animals that regularly feed on skunks. The Great Horned Owl’s range covers all of North America, but habitat loss has reduced its numbers in many areas.