Conepatus leuconotus leuconotuseastern hog-nosed skunk

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Geographic Range

The Eastern hog-nosed skunk is found only in the southeastern part of Texas and eastern Mexico. (Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999)

Habitat

This skunk has been found in a wide range of habitats including forests, grasslands, mountainsides, coastal plains, tropical areas, cacti and thorny brush areas, and even cornfields. The animal lives in a den located in a hollow log, among rocks, or in a burrow made by another animal. (Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999; Gray, 1837)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 4100 m
    0.00 to 13451.44 ft

Physical Description

The Eastern hog-nosed skunk is the largest of all skunks in North America. The skunk looks similar to its close relative, the Western hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus leuconotus), with a few exceptions. Conepatus leuconotus is about 25% larger than C. leuconotus. The dorsal white stripe is much narrower or even absent near the end of the top of the tail of C. leuconotus. On the underside of the tail, C. leuconotus is mostly black with a white tip, while the tail of C. leuconotus is mostly white.

In general, Conepatus has the coarsest fur of all skunks. The body is predominantly black with only a single white stripe on the back and tail. Unlike other skunks, hog-nosed skunks do not have a white dot or bar near the eyes. Also unique to hog-nosed skunks is the nose, which resembles that of a little pig in that it is wide, long and protruding, and naked.

Conepatus leuconotus has a larger body and shorter tail than other skunks. Total body length is generally 70 to 80 cm, and tail length is about 20 to 41 cm. The animal usually weighs between 2 and 4.5 kg. The females have three pairs of mammae. The dental formula is the same as C. leuconotus, (I 3/3, C 1/1, P 2/3, M 1/2 =32). As in other skunks, this skunk has an anal scent gland. (Lichtenstein, online; Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999; Gray, 1837)

  • Range mass
    2 to 4.5 kg
    4.41 to 9.91 lb
  • Range length
    70 to 80 cm
    27.56 to 31.50 in

Reproduction

The animals are known to be rather solitary and may only come together during the mating season. (Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999)

The breeding season is in February and March. The gestation period is about two months long and between two and four kits are born. After about two months the young are weaned and leave the den. Sexual maturity is reached in about ten months to one year. (Kruska, 1990; Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • viviparous
  • Breeding season
    February and March
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 4
  • Average gestation period
    2 months
  • Average weaning age
    2 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    10 to 12 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    10 to 12 months

The mother has her young in her den so that they are sheltered and protected. The young are altricial at birth but can crawl and emit a few drops of musk from the anal gland before their eyes open. (Lichtenstein, online)

Lifespan/Longevity

In captivity the animal has been known to live seven to eight years. (Lichtenstein, online; Kruska, 1990)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    7-8 years

Behavior

Not much is known about C. leuconotus because it has been rather hard to find the wild.

This skunk is more solitary than are most other skunks and hunts mostly at night. It winters in its dens alone, or rarely with one other skunk. (Lichtenstein, online; Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

This skunk eats primarily insects. It pounces on bugs on the surface or it may dig for larvae and beetles with its claws. If insects are not plentiful, these skunks are able find and eat fruits and small vertebrates. (Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

These animals mainly fend off predators by temporarily blinding their attacker with powerfully scented musk from their anal glands. Many animals learn to stay away from the black and white warning colors of the skunk's fur. (Kruska, 1990)

  • Known Predators
    • Predatory birds
    • Large carnivores
    • Some snakes

Ecosystem Roles

The skunks overturn earth while digging for food and mix up the soil. Also, since they eat a lot of insects, especially harmful crop-eating insects, they help keep insect levels low. (Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The skunk eats crop-eating bugs to save agricultural products. Hog-nosed skunks try to avoid human contact so there is less a threat of being sprayed. Although their fur is coarse, some animals are trapped for fur in Texas. Also, the skunks turn up lots of new earth. (Gray, 1837; Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

These skunks carry rabies that can be transmitted to humans or their pets. Also, if a human does get sprayed, the smell can be a lingering nuisance. (Aranda & Lopez-de Buen, 1999)

Conservation Status

This species is being watched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. There is talk of putting this skunk on the endangered species list. (Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999)

Other Comments

The animal has not been sighted since 1966. Much of the behavioral information on these skunks has been taken from assumptions of close relatedness to C. leuconotus.

Conepatus leuconotus is so closely related to C. leuconotus that it is believed by some researchers that the two species are actually the same. Their geographic isolation is one of the main reasons they are considered to be separate species. (Dragoo & Honeycutt, 1999)

Contributors

Alyce Dohring (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kate Teeter (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

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.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

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

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

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.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

nocturnal

active during the night

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.

sexual

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

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

viviparous

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

References

Aranda, M., L. Lopez-de Buen. Jul 1999. Rabies in skunks of Mexico. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 35 (3): 574-577.

Dragoo, J., R. Honeycutt. 1999. Eastern hog-nosed skunk (*Conepatus leuconotus*). Pp. 190-191 in D Wilson, S Ruff, eds. Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Gray, 1837. Walker's Mammals of the World. Sixth Edition, Vol 1. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Kruska, D. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals vol. 3. New York: Mc Graw-Hill Publishing Co.

Lichtenstein, "The Mammals of Texas" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2001 at http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/coneleuc.htm.