SPOTTED SKUNK AND RINGTAIL (CACOMISTLE) - June at Sunset, New Mexico
In this diorama, the last rays of the June sun catch one face of the striking landform known as Shiprock. The remarkable handstand of the spotted skunk (left) is a warning to discourage the two curious ringtails (right) from getting any closer. If this pose doesn’t work, the skunk will release jets of foul-smelling musk from glands under its tail.
Ringtails also combine chemistry with defensive body language. Here, one ringtail has made its tail fur stand upright, creating the illusion of larger size. If the standoff escalates, the ringtail might curve its tail over its head, and—as a last resort—emit its own smelly secretion.