Mammal Species of the World
Mainly a species of Mexico. In the US, found in areas of intermediate elevation in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: Southern North America; from southwestern U.S. (southeastern and south-central Arizona, southern New Mexico, and western Texas) south to Costa Rica (Wozencraft, in Wilson and Reeder 1993; Hwang and Lariviere 2001).
Males usually weigh 800-900 g, while females weigh 400-700 g. Males are about 700mm in length, 377mm of which is the tail. Females are 650mm in length, 370mm of which is the tail. They are similar to striped skunk; however, Mephitis macroura has longer and softer fur. The upper neck has a distinct area of longer hair, leading to the common name "hooded skunk." The tail is also longer than that of the striped skunk. There are two known color patterns. In the first, the back of the skunk is entirely white in color while its underparts are black, sometimes with white areas. In the second, the back and underparts are black with two narrow lateral white stripes along the side. Frequently the underside of the tail is white. The stripes on the hooded skunk rarely divide into a "V" as in striped skunks.
Range mass: 400 to 900 g.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Length: 79 cm
Weight: 900 grams
Size in North America
Range: "560-790 mm "
Range: "820-1,200 g "
Habitat and Ecology
Hooded skunks prefer intermediate elevations, above deserts but below high mountains. They are found in desert scrub, closed basin scrub, plains-mesa grassland, desert grassland, and riparian areas. They often inhabit vegetation along stream banks or rocky ledges of canyons.
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; chaparral
Comments: Inhabits rocky ledges or canyons and areas adjacent to streams. In Arizona, apparently prefers intermediate elevations, above deserts but not in highest mountains (Hoffmeister 1986).
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Mostly eat insects. Sometimes eat vertebrates such as shrews and rodents. Also eat plant material such as prickly pear fruit.
Comments: Feeds on insects and other invertebrates, small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and some plant material.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Comments: Active throughout the year. Primarily nocturnal but also active during the day.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Breeding in Mephitis macroura occurs from the middle of February to the end of March. Litters usually consist of about 3 individuals.
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average gestation period: 61 days.
Average number of offspring: 5.3.
Breeds in late winter. Gestation is estimated to last 8 weeks. Litter size is estimated at 3-8 young (Leopold 1959).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Mephitis macroura
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Comments: Not threatened.
It can be distinguished from the similar striped skunk (M. mephitis) by its longer tail and longer, much softer coat of fur, and larger tympanic bullae. A ruff of white fur around its neck gives the animal its common name. Three color phases are known and in all three, a thin white medial stripe is present between the eyes: black-backed with two lateral white stripes, white-backed with one dorsal white stripe, or entirely black with a few white hairs in the tail.
The hooded skunk ranges from the Southwestern United States to southern Mexico, but is most abundant in Mexico. These skunks are found to be 50% or less smaller in size in southern Mexico than in the Southwestern United States. It is found in grasslands, deserts, and in the foothills of mountains, avoiding high elevations. It tends to live near a water source, such as a river. The females tend to be 15% smaller in size than the males and their breeding season is between February and March. The litter size ranges from three to eight.
The diet of the hooded skunk consists mostly of vegetation, especially prickly pear (Opuntia spp.), but it will readily consume insects, small vertebrates, and bird eggs  as well. No cases of rabies are reported, but they host a range of parasites, including nematodes, roundworms, and fleas.
Hooded skunks are solitary, but they might interact at a feeding ground without showing any signs of aggression. They shelter in a burrow or a nest of thick plant cover during the day and are active at night. Like M. mephitis, for self-defense, they spray volatile components from their anal glands.!
Hooded skunks are currently not endangered. They are very abundant in Mexico and can live in human suburban areas mostly on pastures and cultivated fields. Their fur has low economic value. However, their fat and scent glands can be used for medicinal purposes. In some parts of their range, their flesh is considered a delicacy. Other common names for the hooded skunk include: mofeta rayada (Spanish), moufette à capuchon (French), pay (Maya), southern skunk, white-sided skunk, and zorillo.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Based on patterns of mtDNA variation in Mustelidae, Dragoo and Honeycut (1997) recommended that skunks (Mephitis, Conepatus, Spilogale) and the Oriental stink badger (Mydaus) be separated as a distinct family (Mephitidae). Wozencraft (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) recognized the family Mephitidae.