They have an unknown lifespan, possibly immortal. The lifespan of a totem appears to be connected to the animal they take the appearance of. As long as at least one animal of the totem's species lives, the totem will live. Old Ivory is a totem of ivory-billed woodpeckers, which are nearly extinct, so when the last one dies so will he. This is explained in 'Greetings from Dogpatch' page 13 and page 14
Totem Abilities Edit
Like many African, Asian and American legendary creatures, totems are very magical. In Skin Deep, they are natural shapeshifters. They have appeared as both animals (singular and plural) and a shape similar to a midform, but it is assumed that they can take any shape they desire, including human.