Conepatus chingaMolina's hog-nosed skunk

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Geographic Range

Conepatus chinga is found in mid to southern South America. Its range includes Chile, Peru, northern Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil (Grzimek, 1990). Its range overlaps that of the other closely related Hog-nosed skunk such as Conepatus humboldti and Conepatus semistriatus.

Habitat

Conepatus chinga prefers the open vegetation areas offered by canyons and steppes while foraging or traveling. During rest periods, it perfers the seclusion offered by shrub forests and rocky slope areas (Donadio et all, 2001).

  • Range elevation
    400 to 4100 m
    1312.34 to 13451.44 ft

Physical Description

Conepatus chinga is medium sized, weighing approximately 2.3 to 4.5 kg, and measuring anywhere from 460 to 900 mm long from nose to tail. It has characteristic skunk coloring with generally black fur and 2 white stripes running from the top of the head down the sides of the body to a mostly white tail. It lacks the white stripe down the middle of its face that is common in Mephitis mephitis. Conepatus chinga also has a distintive nose, which is fairly broad and fleshy much like its common name suggests (Walker 1991).

Conepatus chinga also posseses a powerful anal scent gland common to the skunk family that is used defensively as a spray.

  • Range mass
    2.3 to 4.5 kg
    5.07 to 9.91 lb
  • Range length
    460 to 900 mm
    18.11 to 35.43 in

Reproduction

Though solitary during the year, males wander in search of mature females in during the breeding season in late February and early March. Very little is known as to the specifics of the mating rituals (Grzimek 1990).

The breedings season for C. chinga is generally in late February. Solitary for most of the year, mature males seek females for mating during this time. Females generally are impregnated by March and give birth to litters of 2 to 5 in late April or early May. Gestation period is approximately 2 months. The young are sexually mature at 10 to 12 months of age (Walker 1991).

  • Breeding season
    Spring
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 5
  • Average gestation period
    2 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    10 to 12 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    10 to 12 years

Females are the sole caretakers of the young. The young are weaned generally in 8-10 weeks and are foraging on their own by August. Soon after they will leave the mother in search of their own territories (Walker 1991).

Lifespan/Longevity

Much is unknown about the lifespan of Conepatus chinga, but recent studies have shed the light on its duration. It is thought to live approximately 4 to 6 years in the wild. A captive Conepatus leuconotus lived 8 years and 8 months in captivitiy. (Walker 1991)

Behavior

Conepatus chinga is a solitary animal that only comes together with others during mating times. At all other times during the year, it restricts itself to its territory. It is also nocturnal, and forages during the night for its favorite foods-insects. During the day, they rest in rocky dens. During cold winters, C. chinga is believed to sleep in its dens in a type of hibernation much like Mephitis mephitis. However, on warmer winter days, they leave the dens in search of food (Donadio et al 2001).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Conepatus chinga is an omnivore, foraging mainly at night. It uses its fleshy long nose and claws to dig in the soil searching for its favorite food, beetles and spiders. It will also dine on other foods, such as small mammals, eggs, fledgling birds, vegetation or fruit. During the summer, it feeds quite heavily on insects, but in the winter, it will eat a wide variety of other foods because of the lack of insects (Travaini et al., 1998).

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit

Predation

Conepatus chinga possesses one of the most familiar anti-predator adaptations, using its anal scent glands to spray a foul smelling liquid on potential predators (Walker 1991). Another adaptation is their resistance to pitviper venom. This aids them in protection from the vipers who may be hunting them (Walker 1991).

Ecosystem Roles

Conepatus chinga is an uncommon medium sized carnivore in its range. It provides a source of food for animals such as snakes and other larger predators, although due to its defensive spray, predators tend to avoid it. As an omnivore, it eats a wide range of foods (Walker 1991).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Conepatus chinga aids local farmers by eating small mammals and insects that may hurt their crops. Additionally, its fur is used in the fur trade (Walker 1991).

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The remote location of its range has prevented too much contact with humans in a negative sense, but C. chinga is known to carry diseases such as rabies and Trypanosoma cruzi (Pietrokovsky et al, 1991).

Conservation Status

Information concerning the status of C. chinga is lacking, but it is considered uncommon. One subspecies, C. chinga rex, is rare due to hunting for its pelt. More studies are needed to effectively determine the status of this animal (Walker 1991).

Contributors

Kevin Afflerbaugh (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kate Teeter (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

polygynandrous

the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Donadio, E., S. DiMartino, M. Aubone, A. Novaro. 2001. Activity patterns, home-range, and habitat selection of the common hog-nosed skunk, *Conepatus chinga* (Mammalia, Mustelidae), in northwestern Patagonia. Mammalia, 65: 49-54.

Grzimek, F. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing Co..

Pietrokovsky, S., N. Schweigmann, A. Riarte. Aug 1991. The skunk, *Conepatus chinga*, as new host of Trypanosoma Cruzi. Journal of Parasitology, 77: 643-645.

Travaini, A., M. Delibes, O. Ceballos. 1998. Summer foods of the Andean hog-nosed skunk (*Conepatus chiga*) in Patagonia. Journal of Zoology, 246: 457-460.

Walker, 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.