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The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

ORDER CARNIVORA:

CARNIVORES

To this group belong some of our most common and best-known wild mammals — dogs, cats, bears, weasels, skunks, raccoons, and so forth.

The carnivores are nearly worldwide in distribution and occur in the native wild state on all the continents. They are absent, except for introduced domesticated kinds, from all the oceanic islands and are represented in Australia only by the dingo, a wild dog.

The habits of the group are diverse. Coyotes and wolves are terrestrial and adapted for running; martens, fishers, and cats are expert at climbing trees; the badger is adept at digging in the ground; otters are expert swimmers and spend much of their time in the water. Most forms subsist on flesh either as carrion or that freshly killed. Bears, raccoons, ringtails, coyotes, and foxes, however, feed on a variety of foods, including insects, fruits, nuts, grain, and other plant materials, as well as flesh.

Texas has a varied carnivore fauna, including 27 native and one introduced species in five families. However, at least six of these species are now extinct in the state and several others are in danger of the same fate.

Family Canidae (canids)

Coyote, Canis latrans
Gray Wolf, Canis lupus
Red Wolf, Canis rufus
Swift or Kit Fox, Vulpes velox
Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes
Common Gray Fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus

Family Ursidae (bears)

Black Bear, Ursus americanus
Grizzly or Brown Bear, Ursus arctos

Family Procyonidae (procyonids)

Ringtail, Bassariscus astutus
Common Raccoon, Procyon lotor
White-nosed Coati, Nasua narica

Family Mustelidae (mustelids)

Long-tailed Weasel, Mustela frenata
Black-footed Ferret, Mustela nigripes
Mink, Mustela vison
American Badger, Taxidea taxus
Western Spotted Skunk, Spilogale gracilis
Eastern Spotted Skunk, Spilogale putorius
Hooded Skunk, Mephitis macroura
Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis
Eastern Hog-nosed Skunk, Conepatus leuconotus
Common Hog-nosed Skunk, Conepatus mesoleucus
River Otter, Lutra canadensis

Family Felidae (cats)

Mountain Lion, Felis concolor
Ocelot, Felis pardalis
Margay, Felis wiedii
Jaguarundi, Felis yagouaroundi
Jaguar, Panthera onca
Bobcat, Lynx rufus


KEY TO THE CARNIVORES OF TEXAS

1.
  • Catlike; total number of teeth 30 or less; claws retractile: 2
  • Not catlike; total number of teeth 34 to 42; claws usually not retractile: 7
2.
  • Tail 10 to 15 cm, shorter than hind foot; total number of teeth 28; upperparts reddish or grayish brown streaked with black: Lynx rufus (bobcat).
  • Tail 30 to 100 cm, much longer than hind foot; total number of teeth, 30: 3
3.
  • Upperparts concolor in adults, not spotted: 4
  • Upperparts spotted with black rosettes with light centers at all ages: 5
4.
  • Total length of adults up to 3 m; tail about 1 m; weight usually more than 45 kg; color tawny: Felis concolor (mountain lion).
  • Total length of adults up to 1 m; tail about 45 cm; weight up to 7 kg; upperparts reddish or grayish: Felis yagouaroundi (jaguarundi).
5.
  • Total length of adults 2 m or more; weight more than 45 kg: Panthera onca (jaguar).
  • Total length usually less than 1.2 m; weight usually less than 18 kg: 6
6.
  • Length of hind feet more than 120 mm; length of head and body alone about 75 cm; weight 7 to 16 kg: Felis pardalis (ocelot).
  • Length of hind foot less than 120 mm; length of head and body about 50 to 55 cm; weight 2 to 3 kg: Felis wiedii (margay).
7.
  • Doglike; total number of teeth, 42: 8
  • Not doglike; total number of teeth less than 42 (except in bears): 13
8.
  • Hind foot usually less than 170 mm; weight less than 9 kg (foxes): 9
  • Hind foot usually more than 170 mm; weight more than 9 kg (coyotes, wolves): 11
9.
  • Tip of tail white; upperparts yellowish or reddish; feet and lower part of legs black; hind foot near 160 mm: Vulpes vulpes (red fox).
  • Tip of tail black; hind foot usually less than 150 mm: 10
10.
  • General color of body grizzled grayish; legs reddish brown; tail with black stripe on upperside and black tip; hind foot usually more than 140 mm: Urocyon cinereoargenteus (common gray fox).
  • General color of body grayish-tan; hind foot usually less than 140 mm: Vulpes velox (swift or kit fox).
11.
  • Hind foot less than 200 mm; nose pad less than 25 mm in width; weight usually less than 18 kg: Canis latrans (coyote).
  • Hind foot more than 200 mm; nose pad more than 25 mm in width; weight usually more than 18 kg: 12
12.
  • Hind foot more than 250 mm; general color grayish: Canis lupus (gray wolf).
  • Hind foot less than 250 mm; general color tawny or reddish mixed with black: Canis rufus (red wolf).
13.
  • Tail considerably shorter than hind foot; total number of teeth, 42; weight of adults usually more than 100 kg; color black or brown (bears): 14
  • Not as above: 15
14.
  • Claws of front feet 7 to 12 cm long; face distinctly "dished in"; ruff or mane present between shoulders; last upper molar nearly twice as large as the one in front of it: Ursus arctos (grizzly or brown bear).
  • Claws on front feet seldom as long as 75 mm; face slightly arched or nearly straight in profile; no ruff or mane; last upper molar about 1.5 times as large as the one in front of it: Ursus americanus (black bear).
15.
  • Total number of teeth, 40; tail usually with indications of alternating dark and light rings: 16
  • Total number of teeth, 32 to 36; tail lacking dark and light rings: 18
16.
  • Tail as long as, or longer than head and body with 14 to 16 alternating black and white rings and a black tip; hind foot less than 80 mm; weight 1 to 2 kg: Bassariscus astutus (ringtail).
  • Tail shorter than head and body and with six to seven alternating dark and light rings or rings inconspicuous; hind foot of adults 85 mm or more: 17
17.
  • Snout extending conspicuously beyond mouth and highly flexible; tail about five times as long as hind foot; alternating rings obscured in adults: Nasua narica (white-nosed coati).
  • Snout not extending conspicuously beyond mouth; tail two to three times as long as hind foot, rings conspicuous at all ages: Procyon lotor (common raccoon).
18.
  • Upperparts black with longitudinal white stripe or stripes (skunks): 19
  • Upperparts not black and white striped: 24
19.
  • Total number of teeth, 32; back with single, broad white stripe from head to tail; nose pad large and flexible (hog-nosed skunks): 20
  • Total number of teeth, 34; back normally with two or more white stripes; nose pad normal: 21
20.
  • Total length of adults 700 mm or more; hind foot, 75 mm or more: Conepatus leuconotus (eastern hog-nosed skunk).
  • Total length of adults usually less than 600 mm; length of hind foot usually less than 70 mm: Conepatus mesoleucus (common hog-nosed skunk).
21.
  • Six distinct broken or continuous white stripes on anterior part of body; white spot in center of forehead; hind foot seldom more than 50 mm: 22
  • Not as above: 23
22.
  • Black and white stripes on back nearly equal in width; white spot on forehead large, covering more than half of the area between the eyes; white stripes beginning between the ears or just behind them: Spilogale gracilis (western spotted skunk).
  • Black stripes on back wider than the white ones; white spot on forehead small, seldom more than 15 mm in diameter; white stripes on back begin about 25 mm behind the ears: Spilogale putorius (eastern spotted skunk).
23.
  • Dorsal white stripe bifurcate; sides black: Mephitis mephitis (striped skunk).
  • Dorsal stripe white or black but never bifurcate; sides usually with narrow white stripe beginning at ear: Mephitis macroura (hooded skunk).
24.
  • Total number of teeth, 36; feet webbed; tail long, heavy, tapering; ears short; color chocolate brown; total length 1 m or more: Lutra canadensis (river otter).
  • Total number of teeth, 34; feet not webbed; total length less than 1 m: 25
25.
  • Tail about as long as hind foot; claws on front feet about 25 mm in length and much longer than those on hind foot; body thick-set, heavy; fur lax and long: Taxidea taxus (American badger).
  • Tail noticeably longer than hind foot; body long and slender; fur relatively short: 26
26.
  • Color chocolate brown to black; midline of belly white: Mustela vison (mink).
  • Color yellowish brown; head usually with black and white markings; tip of tail black and contrasting markedly with rest of tail: 27
27.
  • Feet brown or tan; hind foot 50 mm or less; weight 500 g or less: Mustela frenata (long-tailed weasel).
  • Feet black; hind foot more than 50 mm; weight 500 to 1,500 g: Mustela nigripes (black-footed ferret).