||The Mammals of Texas -
Western Spotted Skunk
Carnivora : Family Mustelidae :
Spilogale gracilis Merriam
Description. Color pattern resembles that
of the eastern
spotted skunk, Spilogale
putorius, but white marking is more extensive, the
black and white stripes on upper back nearly equal in
width (in putorius the black areas are much more
extensive than the white); dorsal pair of white stripes
begin between the ears or just posterior to them (on back
of head in putorius); white area on face large,
extending nearly from nose pad to a line back of eyes and
covering more than half of area between eyes; underside
of tail white for nearly half its length, the tip
extensively white. External measurements average:
(males), total length, 423 mm; tail, 134 mm; hind foot,
43 mm; (females), 360-129-40 mm. Weight of males, 565 g;
of females, 368 g.
Distribution in Texas. Recorded from
southwestern part of state as far north as Garza and
Howard counties and eastward to Bexar and Duval counties.
Habits. This skunk occupies a
variety of habitats and often occurs in close association
with man. In Texas, most records of capture indicate that
it is most often associated with rocky bluffs, cliffs,
and brush-bordered canyon streams or stream beds. In the
Edwards Plateau, rock fences seem to be especially
attractive, possibly because they also provide denning
sites and serve as refuges for many kinds of animals on
which the spotted skunks feed. They also have been
reported denning in hollow logs and, since they are adept
at climbing, in the attics of houses.
Their natural foods are not well
documented, but they are known to feed on turkey eggs,
young rabbits, mice, and such arthropods as grasshoppers
Sexually mature females come into heat
in September and most of them are bred by the first week
in October. The blastula stage of the embryo spends
180-200 days floating free in the uterus of the female
before it becomes implanted. The two to five (average,
four) young are born in late April and May after a total
gestation period of from 210 to 230 days. Young females
become sexually mature when only 4 or 5 months of age.
Testes of both adult and young males begin to enlarge in
March, are producing quantities of sperm by May, and
reach their largest size during the height of the
breeding season in September. In October, the testes
begin to regress in size and the formation of sperm is
halted. Thus, the males are incapable of fertilizing the
females during the period from November through March.
Even though the males are capable of breeding several
months before the females come into heat, no breeding
takes place until the females are receptive.
Remarks. The previous editions
of this book followed Richard Van Gelder in placing all
of the spotted skunks in Texas in the species Spilogale
putorius. Subsequent studies conducted in the Pacific
Northwest by Rodney Mead and in Texas by Robert Patton
clearly indicate that we have two species. In addition to
certain differences in color pattern and cranial
features, the most striking differences between the two
are found in their reproductive physiology and the period
of the year when breeding takes place.
Photo credit: R.D. Porter.