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Order Carnivora Family Mustelidae. Large canines No diastema Claws not retractile Mustelid glands Short legs. Taxidea taxus. Mustela nivalis.

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order carnivora family mustelidae
Order CarnivoraFamily Mustelidae
  • Large canines
  • No diastema
  • Claws not retractile
  • Mustelid glands
  • Short legs

Taxidea taxus

mustela nivalis
Mustela nivalis

Identification: Tail < 33% body length and lacks well-defined black tip; dorsal pelage brown in summer, white in winter; venter white; molting animals spotted (TL 170-215 mm; Tail 25-45)

Distribution: Statewide

Habitat: Grassy areas; open woodlands

mustela nivalis3
Mustela nivalis

Diet: Primarily mice; some birds, large invertebrates; consume 33-100% of body weight daily

Reproduction: At least 2 litters of 1-6 annually

Conservation: Uncommon

mustela erminea
Mustela erminea

Identification: Tail < 44% body length with black tip; dorsal pelage brown in summer, white in winter; venter and inside of legs white to yellow (TL 219-343 mm; Tail 60-95)

Distribution: Northern half of IA

Habitat: Open areas near woody cover; usually near water

mustela erminea5
Mustela erminea

Diet: Primarily mice; some birds, invertebrates; consume 33-100% of body weight daily

Reproduction: 1 litter of 4-13 annually

Conservation: Uncommon; possibly increasing and expanding range south

mustela frenata
Mustela frenata

Identification: Tail > 44% body length with black tip; dorsal pelage brown in summer, white in winter; venter white but inside of legs brown in summer (TL 350-430 mm; Tail 110-140)

Distribution: Statewide

Habitat: Brushy, woody areas; usually near water

mustela frenata7
Mustela frenata

Diet: Primarily small mammals

Reproduction: 1 litter of 4-9 annually

Conservation: Uncommon, possibly declining

mephitis mephitis striped skunk

Mephitis mephitisStriped skunk

Erica Hartman


mephitis mephitis erica hartman

Black fur with dorsal white stripes, form a “v” shape at nape of neck

Bushy tail

Amount of white or black on individuals are variable

Mephitis mephitisErica Hartman


striped skunk



woodlands, fields, agricultural areas, human neighborhoods

Striped skunk


striped skunk11



spring litters of 4 to 11 young

Conservation status:

trapping season is

Nov. 6 to Jan. 31

there is no bag limit

Striped skunk


striped skunk12
Fun facts:

nocturnal hunter

pelts go for under $2

before they spray will first shake their head “no”, stomp their paws second, then they will finally spray

Striped skunk


references mephitis mephitis
References: Mephitis mephitis
  • Iowa DNR website. November 2, 2004 http://www.iowadnr.com/wildlife/files/hunting.html
  • Jones, J.K. and E.C. Birney. 1988. Handbook of mammals of the north-central states. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. 268 pp.
  • Kays, R.W. and D.E. Wilson. 2002. Mammals of North America. Princeton University Press. Princeton, New Jersey. 182 pp.
eastern spotted skunk spilogale putorius

Eastern Spotted SkunkSpilogale putorius

Katrina Cook

Roger Barbour

physical id spilogale putorius
Physical ID:Spilogale putorius
  • The eastern spotted skunk is the smaller of the two skunks occurring in Iowa.
  • It is black with a white spot on the forehead, one white spot under each ear, and four to six broken white stripes along the neck, back, and sides.
  • The fur is long and silky.
  • White spots or patches are present on the rump, and the bushy black tail usually has a broad, white tip.
  • The front feet possess sharp, recurved claws that are twice as long as toes on the hind feet.


let s talk size spilogale putorius
Let’s Talk SizeSpilogale putorius
  • Adult total length: 17 - 23 in.
  • Tail: 6 - 8 in.
  • Hind foot: 1 5/8 - 2 1/8 in.
  • Weight: 1 - 3 lbs.
  • The smallest of skunks
  • The spotted skunk, also known as the hydrophobia cat or the civet cat, is the size of a small domestic cat, about half the size of a striped skunk.


distribution spilogale putorius
DistributionSpilogale putorius
  • The eastern spotted skunk ranges from northeastern Mexico through the Great Plains to the Canadian border and throughout the southeastern United States north to Pennsylvania.
  • Spotted skunks have a home range of about 150 acres.


status spilogale putorius
StatusSpilogale putorius

Special Protection Status

  • Rangewide: None.
  • Statewide, endangered
  • Status: Uncommon to Rare, Native Resident

By Doug Alderson

Illustrated by Lizabeth West     

habitat spilogale putorius
HabitatSpilogale putorius
  • Spotted skunks may inhabit forested and brushy areas as well as agricultural regions.
  • They are often found in crevices in cliffs and in rock slides.


dens spilogale putorius
DensSpilogale putorius
  • The like to den in hollow trees, if they can find one available. Dens may be in underground burrows, beneath farm buildings, in hollow logs, in rock crevices, lumber slab piles, brush piles, and the burrows of other animals.
  • They are more social than other skunks. Several may share a den over the winter.
diet spilogale putorius
DietSpilogale putorius
  • The eastern spotted skunk is omnivorous.
  • The spotted skunk is the most carnivorous of all skunks. It feeds primarily on small mammals, fruits, insects, birds, lizards, snakes, rats, mice, grapes, corn, grubs, and carrion.
reproduction spilogale putorius
ReproductionSpilogale putorius
  • Litters of two to six young are born in a nest of grass or hay within the den during May or June.
  • Delayed implantation occurs and greatly prolongs gestation. The fertilized egg starts its development as it travels down the oviduct. Reaching the uterus, it then becomes inactive, the metabolic rate falls, and cell division ceases. The unimplanted egg is stored for ten to eleven months before implantation and normal development resumes.
  • Newborn skunks have their eyes and ears closed and are covered with fine hair that does not show the adult color pattern. The eyes open between 30 and 32 days, and the first solid food is eaten at about 42 days of age. Weaning takes place at about eight weeks of age, and the young may reach their full growth in slightly more than three months.
  • Breeding occurs at one year.
daily activity spilogale putorius
Daily Activity?Spilogale putorius
  • The Eastern spotted skunk is nocturnal and are active all year.
  • Rarely comes out while it is light in the evening, and is back in the den before sunup


life expectancy spilogale putorius
Life ExpectancySpilogale putorius
  • Although they have excellent senses of smell and hearing—vital attributes in a nocturnal carnivore—they have poor vision. They cannot see objects more than about 3 m away with any clarity, which makes them very vulnerable to road traffic. Roughly half of all skunk deaths are caused by humans, as roadkill, or as a result of shooting and poisoning.
  • They are short-lived animals: fewer than 10% survive for longer than three years.
predation spilogale putorius
PredationSpilogale putorius

Owls are the primary predator of skunks. Owls can strike silently from above and carry off a young skunk before the parent can use its defensive spray.

climbers spilogale putorius
ClimbersSpilogale putorius
  • Excellent climber, unlike the striped skunk, it can climb trees with ease, and even climb down head first
  • Spotted skunks are good climbers and will climb trees to escape from predators. They are faster and more agile than striped skunks
tracks spilogale putorius
TracksSpilogale putorius
  • Spotted skunk tracks show five toes on each foot, with claw marks. The heel pad of the hind print is distinctively lobed.
  • http://www.bear-tracker.com/spskunk.html
to spray or not to spray spilogale putorius
To spray or not to spraySpilogale putorius

When frightened or angered, the eastern spotted skunk may engage in several unique behaviors that may serve as either a bluff or a warning prior to the discharge of the scent. It may stomp or pat its front feet in rapid succession on the floor or ground. It can also do a "handstand" on its front feet. The skunk upends itself, holds its tail in the air, and may walk up to several yards in this manner.

sue arnold

spraying behavior spilogale putorius
Spraying BehaviorSpilogale putorius
  • The spotted skunk differs on how it sprays, it will do a handstand on its forefeet and spray over its head
  • They have two glands, on either side of the anus, that produce a mixture of sulphur-containing chemicals that has a highly offensive smell. Muscles located next to the scent glands allow them to shoot out the liquid through nipples, that are hidden when the tail is down and exposed when the tail is raised.
  • The skunk has voluntary control over these scent glands and can aim behind, to either side, or to the front by changing the direction of aim of the nipples.
  • The spray can reach to a distance of about 2m with good accuracy. The smell aside, it can cause irritation and even temporary blindness, and is sufficiently powerful to be detected by even an insensitive human nose anywhere up to a km downwind.
removing the smell spilogale putorius
Removing the SmellSpilogale putorius
  • The following Skunk Smell Remover Formula is effective in removing skunk smell from sprayed victims.
  • 1 U.S. Quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide.
  • 1/4 Cup baking soda.
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap.
  • Directions: Mix together at time of usage, and apply foaming mixture to affected areas.
  • How it works: The oxygen molecules emitted by the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda reaction deactivates the smell molecules by binding to them and rendering them inert.
reference spilogale putorius
ReferenceSpilogale putorius
  • http://www.discoverlife.org/nh/tx/Vertebrata/Mammalia/Mephitidae/Spilogale/putorius/ Visited on 11/2/04
  • http://www.iowadnr.com/other/files/ Visited on 11/2/04
  • http://www.wildliferescueleague.org/pdf/skunk.pdf Visited on 11/2/04
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunk Visited on 11/2/04


(Taxidea taxus )

By: Brad Froeschle

Badgers can weigh between 8-24lbs and be as long as 35inches.

The body is flattened, and the legs are short and stocky.

Badgers have a gray to reddish color on its back and it’s face is white with black patches. Also a white stripe extends down it’s back to it’s shoulders.

The front feet are partially webbed with long claws, while the hind feet are like shovels.

Dental Count: 3/3;1/1;2-4/2-4;1/1

The North American Badger (Taxidea taxus) ranges from the southern parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada, down through Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois in the US.

In Iowa the badger is commonly found throughout the state.

  • Badgers are found mainly in dry open country areas.
  • Usually they are located in plains, tundra, forest, shrubby, and grassland areas.
  • They require dry, loose soils for burrowing and shelter.
The badger eats small mammals, birds, reptiles and arthropods. Unlike most carnivores, it does not hunt for most of its food but catches it by digging it out of the ground.

Badgers usually kill their prey with bites to the thoracic region of it’s prey.

Badgers are store up food throughout the spring, summer, and fall months so that they can have enough energy while they hibernate in the winter.

Badgers will wake up during the sleeping period to eat, but then return to sleeping.

  • Mating in badgers occurs in early autumn, but the fertilized egg suspended in the uterus until early December where it then continues to develop for only 6 weeks.
  • Badgers have a litter between 1-5.
  • Females are sexually mature at 4 months while males aren’t until their second year.
conservation status economic value
Conservation Status(Economic Value)
  • Badgers are pretty common throughout Iowa, and they are not on the endangered list.
  • Badgers have a limited trapping season due to their being a somewhat abundance.
  • An economic value for humans is the badgers pelt.
Badgers have a multiple number of burrows. Each one is about 10 meters long with an enlarged sleeping chamber.

Badgers switch burrows about once a month.

Badger holes are a hazard to cattle and horses.

  • Nowak, Ronald. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  • Iowa Association of Naturalists. Iowa mammals. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/IAN601.pdf. Oct. 2004.
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Iowa’s threatened and endangered species. http://www.state.ia.us/dnr/organiza/ppd/tespecies.htm. Oct. 2004.
  • National Research Council of Canada. Killing technique of North American badgers preying on Richardson's ground squirrels. http://pubs.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/cgi-bin/rp/rp2_abst_e?cjz_z01-169_79_ns_nf_cjz. Oct. 2004.
  • National Park Labs. Wildlife Field Guide. http://www.nps.gov/goga/parklabs/library/wildlifeguide/mammals/northamerican_badger.htm. Oct. 2004.
mustela vison

Mustela vison

Photo by Steven Holt

mustela vison distribution
Mustela visondistribution

Map courtesy of MO DOC

mustela vison description
Mustela visondescription
  • Large weasel-like
  • Uniformly dark brown
  • White blotches on chin
  • Pelage long and glossy
  • TL:570-680; T:185-210; HF:60-75; E:20-27
  • Weight 1-1.7 kg

Photo by Steven Holt

mustela vison habitat
Mustela visonhabitat
  • Equally at home on land and water
  • Only heavily wooded upland habitats avoided
  • Lakes, ponds, impoundments, streams, rivers, and marshes preferred
  • Dens located near water
  • Usually abandoned burrows of other mammals
  • Linear home ranges, females 20-50 acres, males much larger

Photo by Steven Holt

mustela vison food habits
Mustela visonfood habits
  • Muskrats, voles, mice, cottontails, staple items
  • Frogs, snakes, squirrels, shrews
  • Rarely cache food

Photo by Steven Holt

mustela vison reproduction
Mustela visonreproduction
  • Breeding takes place in middle to late winter
  • Gestation begins after short period of delayed implantation
  • Litter 1-10 born in April-May
mustela vison conservation
Mustela visonconservation
  • Humans only enemy
  • Pelt prices $25-50
  • Many mink farms
  • Have a healthy population

Photos courtesy of efurs.com

mustela vison references
Mustela visonreferences
  • Errington, P.L. 1943. An analysis of mink predation upon muskrats in northcentral United States. Res, Bull Agric. Exp. Sta., Iowa State Coll., 320:797-924
  • Jones, J. Knoox, Jr. and E. C. Birney. 1988. Handbook of Mammals of the North-central states. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. 346 pp. ISBN 08166-1420-2
  • Kays, Roland and D. E. Wilson. 2002. Mammals of North America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 240 pp. ISBN 0-691-07012-1
  • Willner, G.R.,G.A. F., E.E. Z., and J.A. Chapman. 1980. Mustela vison. Mamm. Species, 141:1-8
  • http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov
river otter lutra canadensis

River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

By: Brock Winkelbauer

river otter lutra canadensis50
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Mustelidae


river otter lutra canadensis51
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)


  • Total Length: 76-152 cm
  • Tail Length: 30-40% total body length
  • Weighs: 6.5 - 18 kg
  • Females usually 25% smaller than males
  • Torpedo shaped body
  • Fur is dark to reddish brown on back and light brown to tan on belly


river otter lutra canadensis52
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)


  • Widespread in Canada and midwestern/southwestern United States
  • Lower numbers elsewhere
  • Been seen in 90 of 99 Iowa counties
  • Reproduced in 75 of the 99 counties
river otter lutra canadensis53
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

Habitat and Home

  • Rivers, Lakes and Streams key habitats
  • Pools and wetlands created by beavers are very common place their or their dens
  • Abandoned beaver dens are favorites
    • Not able to dig their own burrows
  • Males home range often up to 40-50 miles in length, females only range 3-10 miles
river otter lutra canadensis54
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)


  • Fish is main food source
  • Also eat turtles, birds, snakes and clams
  • Most of hunting is done underwater and eaten while in water
  • Large prey is usually taken to shore to eat
river otter lutra canadensis55
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)


  • Breeding takes place from Jan. – April
  • Fertilized eggs remain dormant 285-365 days then begin to develop
  • Pups born 60-65 days later b/w Jan-May
  • Most litters have 2-4 pups
  • Young weaned by 4 months of age
  • Sexually mature around 2 years of age
river otter lutra canadensis56
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

Conservation Status & Importance

  • Protecting beaver populations important in the River Otter’s future
  • Conserving wetlands and woodlands next to water sources very important
  • No real predators except for man
  • Were abundant in Iowa during European settlement, but now uncommon


river otter lutra canadensis58
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

Misc. Info

  • They’re real active energetic aquatic animals
    • Sliding down slopes, belly flopping, etc. whenever the conditions permit them
  • Able to swim up to 7 mph
  • Can stay underwater for up to 4 minutes
  • Close ears and nostrils to keep water out
  • Live up to 10 years in wild


river otter lutra canadensis59
River Otter (Lutra canadensis)


  • Beheler, Amanda S., Jennifer A.F., Lisa M.M., Thomas S.S., Olin E.R.Jr. Development of polymorphic micro satellite loci for North American riverotters (Lontra canadensis) and amplification in related mustelids. March 2004. Molecular Ecology Notes. 4: 56-58.
  • Reed-Smith, Janice. North American River Otter: Husbandry Notebook. John Ball Zoological Garden 1995.
  • http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/pubs/notebook/furbear/rvrotter.php
  • http://www.iowadnr.com/wildlife/pdfs/2001_river_otter.pdf
  • http://www.luddist.com/otter.htm
  • http://www.nationalgeographic.com/kids/creature_feature/0006/otters2.html
  • http://www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/rivotter.htm
  • http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/dnr/fur/species/otter.html
  • http://www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/rivotter.htm