Friday, July 28, 2017

Opossums eat woodrats?

In West Virginia, while monitoring the den of a female spotted skunk with kits, Chuck Waggy observed a woodrat co-inhabiting the den.  This alone was unique, but what happened next was even more interesting.

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Below is Chuck's account of the interaction:

At 0500 hrs. on June 24, a raccoon entered the skunk/woodrat den--first raccoon I had seen here.  The last pic I had of the wood rat at this den was at 23:50 hrs. on June 24.   At 00:38 hrs. on June 25 a possum (also first possum I had seen here) entered the skunk maternal /woodrat den.   It exited the den 48 seconds later chewing on something.  At first I thought it might be a spotted kit but size didn't match.  Woodrat pup or just some extraneous debris?  Those were the last pics I got of the woodrat and possum (and raccoon) but skunk brought a kit (much larger than what possum was munching on) out of that same den on June 29.

Overall, opossums are an exceedingly common yet poorly understood critter.  Relatively few studies of their biology and role in ecosystems have been conducted.  Chuck's observation suggests they could be important predators, not only to the nests of turkeys and other birds, but the dens of small mammals like the woodrats and potentially even the spotted skunk.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Kits up!

It's that time of year again as spotted skunk kits are starting to come above ground with the help of their mothers.  The photo below if from spotted skunk tracker Chuck Waggy in West Virginia and the female he has been following named Mary.  Incidentally, June 29th is the same day he saw spotted skunk kits for the first time last year.

Also, this past week in Florida, Clemson graduate student Stephen Harris captured this video of a skunk Mom cleaning her young kit and seeming to have a little trouble getting it down the burrow.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

7 mile dispersal by a spotted skunk in West Virginia

Spotted skunk researcher Chuck Waggy recently passed along the story below about a record long-distance dispersal by one of his collared skunks:

"On March 8 we (Emily Thorne and I) trapped and transmitted a male spotted (Joe) on my study area.  On March 22 we trapped and transmitted a female (Mary) at this same location.  Both skunks remained in the vicinity of the trap site until late April.  The female left this area on April 23, moved a short distance south and has been tracked daily to date. 

The male left the area on April 20 and went completely off the transmitter radar.  I tried night tracking and daytime tracking from all access points I could get to that I considered a reasonable distance from the trap site (2-3 miles radius ) but no signals from April 21-May 31. 

Today I was going to survey a timber rattlesnake site and checked on the female spotted enroute (good signal--same place now for nine days).  After locating the female, on a whim I connected my receiver to an omni antenna, switched to the male's frequency and decided to leave the receiver on for the entire trip as my rattlesnake site was very near a golden eagle cam site where I had gotten spotteds on cam in the past.  After driving about eleven miles (road miles) from the last know location of the male on April 20 I got a good signal on normal pulse mode from the male's transmitter.  Stopped and got a good bearing location via telemetry.  Had two co-workers with me who verified signals and location.  Completely accidental that I located him.

The male is now 7.2 air miles from the trap site, although it would be almost impossible for him to go in a straight line as this would have required him to cross a major river twice.  He traversed some of the most rugged terrain in eastern WV and had to be on at least four different mountains.  As of today the telemetered male and female are 8.3 miles apart.


In April of 2015 we had two males to suddenly go off the radar within a few weeks of transmitting.  Today's experience with the male just about verifies my suspicion that we didn't have transmitter failure or immediate mortality.  I am now about positive those two males simply went way farther in distance than I ever expected."

Chuck is not alone in observing this type of long-distance movement, as Damon Lesmeister, during his thesis work in the Arkansas Ouachitas, observed the following long distance dispersal:  "We observed the dispersal of one male in the spring after his capture as a subadult. The animal was captured and fitted with a radio transmitter in October, 2005. The following April, the animal dispersed 6.5 km in less than 48 hours and during the following summer established a territory 9.8 km from it’s winter range. The animal was not observed to return during the course of the study, thus we considered it a dispersing juvenile."

Friday, July 29, 2016

Spotted skunk families in Alabama

University of West Georgia grad student Cody Cornelison is adding to the list of researchers lucky enough to get spotted skunk families on film this summer.  These little guys look hungry for sardines.


Cody said that the mom investigate the trap site in Cheaha State Park in Alabama, then left for an hour only to return with 2 kits.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Spotted skunk families in South Carolina

Robin Eng is following several radio-collared female spotted skunks around this summer in the South Carolina/North Carolina boarder region, and the young are just now getting old enough to come out of the den and follow Mom around.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Spotted skunk kits in Florida

Clemson University graduate student Stephen Harris has also had success in capturing game cam footage of spotted skunk kits near their den in the prairies of Florida.  What a year for learning about spotted skunk litter rearing!

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A few weeks later and kits are starting emerge and explore around their den, although on shaking footing.

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Better yet, we see the signs of early play and attempts at hand stands, the classic display pose of the spotted skunk.  


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It took some practice, but now the little guy is getting it.


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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Spotted skunk kits in Virginia

Not to be outdone by Chuck in West Virginia, Emily Thorne has captured a family of spotted skunks on film in Virginia.  

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