||The Mammals of Texas -
Common Hog-nosed Skunk
Carnivora : Family Mustelidae :
Conepatus mesoleucus (Lichtenstein)
Description. A rather large skunk with a
single, broad white stripe from top of head to base of
tail; long, bushy tail white all over with a few
scattered black hairs beneath; rest of body blackish
brown or black; white stripe on head truncate; snout
relatively long, the naked pad about 20 mm broad and 25
mm long; nostrils ventral in position, opening downward;
ears and eyes small; five toes on each foot; claws of
forefeet much larger than on rear feet, strong and
adapted for digging; pelage relatively long and coarse;
underfur thin. Young colored like adults; sexes alike in
coloration. Dental formula: I 3/3, C 1/1, Pm 2/3, M 1/2 X
2 = 32. External measurements average: (males), total
length, 577 mm; tail, 248 mm; hind foot, 65 mm;
(females), 542-202-68 mm. Weight, 1.1-2.7 kg, rarely to
4.5 kg. Females are smaller than males.
Distribution in Texas. Ranges across
southwestern, central, and southern Texas, north at least
to Collin and Lubbock counties; former isolated
population in Big Thicket region probably extirpated.
Habits. These white-backed
skunks inhabit mainly the foothills and partly timbered
or brushy sections of their general range. They usually
avoid hot desert areas and heavy stands of timber. The
largest populations occur in rocky, sparsely timbered
areas such as the Edwards Plateau of central Texas and
the Chisos, Davis, and Guadalupe mountains of Trans-Pecos
Texas. A few have been reported from the Big Thicket area
of East Texas, but these are apparently extirpated now.
Their presence in an area usually can be detected by the
characteristically "plowed" patches of ground
where the skunks have rooted and overturned rocks and
bits of debris in their search for food. This hog-like
habit of rooting has led to the adoption of the term
"rooter skunk." Most Texans know the skunk by
Although largely nocturnal, they are
not strictly so. In midwinter in central Texas, many of
them prefer to feed during the heat of the day. In this
respect they remind one of the habits of the armadillo at
that season. They seldom are as abundant in any part of
their range as the striped skunk, Mephitis.
Like other skunks, they are relatively unafraid of man or
beast and do not hesitate to defend themselves with their
powerful musk if unduly molested. In the Guadalupe
Mountains of western Texas, one of us (Davis) watched one
at close range at night with the aid of a flashlight for
nearly 30 minutes as it rooted about in search of food.
When approached too closely, fair warning was given as
the skunk elevated its tail and maneuvered to place the
observer in the line of fire.
As mentioned previously, these skunks
prefer rocky situations when available because the
numerous cracks and hollows can serve as den sites. Not
only do they winter in such dens, but they also use them
as nurseries. Unlike the striped skunk, this species is
more or less unsocial. Usually only one individual lives
in a den, but a trapper in central Texas reported that he
once found a winter den occupied by two of them.
Their food habits make them valuable
assets in most areas. Based on analysis of stomachs and
other viscera of 83 "rooters" from central
Texas, their seasonal food (expressed in percentages)
consists of: Fall insects, 52; arachnids, 4;
vegetation, 38; reptiles, 6. Winter insects, 76;
arachnids, 12; small mammals, 9; vegetation, 3; with
reptiles and mollusks making up the balance. Spring
insects, 82; arachnids, 12; reptiles, 6. Summer
insects, 50; arachnids, 9; small mammals, 3;
vegetation, 31; snails, 5; reptiles, 2.
The breeding season begins in February,
and most females of breeding age are with young in March.
The fact that the female has only six teats, as compared
with 12-14 in the striped skunk, suggests small litters
of young. Robert Patton found that females generally
produce two litters, each consisting of three
individuals. The late J. D. Bankston of Mason, Texas
reported that he had never seen more than four young with
a female. The young are born in late April or early May.
The gestation period is approximately 2 months. Nothing
has been recorded on the growth and development of the
young, but we do know that they can crawl about in the
nest before their eyes are open and that at that tender
age they can emit a drop or two of musk. By the middle of
June they are about the size of kittens and weigh about
450 g. By August most of them are weaned and are
"rooting" for their living.