Sunday, January 20, 2013

CSI Sabino Dam V: Which Skunk?

Ronnie writes:
There are four species of skunks in Sabino Canyon. The teeth are the final clue. Three of the four species of skunks, striped (Mephitis mephitis), hooded (Mephitis macroura), and western spotted (Spilogale gracilis), all have the same number and types of teeth. The fourth species, the white-backed hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus leuconotus) has one less tooth in each quarter of the jaws, or four fewer teeth total. Luckily you found this species [hog-nosed] so we could confirm identification with the views from [yesterday's photos]. [Anne notes: Mark and Jean have seen this species in the canyon. Alive. Click.]
This skunk is listed in older books as C. mesoleucus, the western hog-nosed skunk, but that species has been combined with the eastern species. Skunks are no longer part of the weasel family either. They are isolated in the skunk family, Mephitidae. Hooded and hog-nosed skunks only occur in a limited area in the southwest, so they are very cool to see.
Skunks are wonderful carnivores, and much more viewable than many other mammals. I've gotten to see all four [species in Sabino Canyon]. Have you? If not, hike the road at night wearing a red light and keep talking to a minimum.
A word of caution: Never try to capture, handle, or startle one. Rather, when you first see one, immediately talk softly to it and continue a low-voiced monologue so they know where you are and that you are not making any threatening moves toward them. I have enjoyed live skunks up close many times and have never been sprayed. (If you have a dog with you, good luck.)
Anne asks: Anyone up for a skunk walk?
Thanks to Ronnie for her expertise; Mark and Alan for the photos; Mark for the initial text and impetus. Definitely up for the Oscar for Best Blog Series in 2013!!

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