The Grand Canyon is home to one of the largest species of skunks in the world- the American Hog-Nosed Skunk, or Conepatus leuconotus. While the Grand Canyon National Park’s location is considered past the skunk’s range, two of these skunks were reported by Colorado River rafters in the recent past. Today, park biologists are researching the distribution of the skunks inside the canyon.
Spotting the Hog-Nosed Skunk
The Hog-Nosed Skunk is not hard to spot, as it can grow as big as 2.7 feet long, or 82.5 centimeters. You can identify the large mammal by its large, broad white stripe that spans from its head to the its completely white tail. The skunk’s nose is somewhat long and does not have fur.
Usually, Hog-Nosed Skunks are found in an area, from southern Colorado to Central America. When they have been seen inside the park, they have been navigating the canyon land close to the Colorado River.
What They Eat
The skunks like to feed on insects and will also partake in prey, such as small reptiles and carrion. They also enjoy munching on the prickly pear cactus. Their large claws and powerful forelimbs help them dig for insects and dig burrows, which they use for shelter and taking care of their young. They come out at night. Therefore, you probably won’t spot the skunk, unless you are in the park near sunset or you stay overnight. Female Hog-Nosed Skunks give birth to baby skunks in April and May. One to five baby skunks are birthed at one time.
Tracking the Hog-Nosed Skunk
To study the skunk within the canyon scientists use infrared trail cameras. The cameras have been established along the Colorado River, the preferred habitat of the skunk. Currently, 25 cameras are poised to photograph the skunks when they move in front of the lens. Biologists plan to keep the cameras in place for several months or years so they can collect thousands of photos. These images will capture the activities of the skunks as well as other key canyon animals.
The Future of Grand Canyon Wildlife
The photos will help scientists learn how many of the skunks make this part of the canyon their home. This will permit researchers to better comprehend the park population trends over several years. Whether the skunk is a new visitor to the canyon or has been overlooked in the past, it is one animal that is now one of the instrumental Grand Canyon animals in the eco system of the park.