Sunday, November 8, 2015

Mommy's lill stinkers

Guest post by Ty Sprayberry

More images from Ty Sprayberry in Alabama as he continues to monitor eastern spotted skunks in Talladega National Forest. The following images are of a female and her kits occupying a den from August to September. Other studies have reported that eastern spotted skunks usually give birth in July and can have as many as 6 kits per litter. The kits are usually weaned after 50-60 days. During the month this family occupied the den they spent the day inside and during the night the mother hunts for food while the kits play and explore the surrounding area.

The mom wearing a radio collar exits the den first. The den is a small burrow in the ground around the same size as a tennis ball (3in x 3in).

Next come the kits anxious to play and explore their surroundings.

One of the kits finds the camera and wants to show it who is boss.

Two kits wrestling outside the den opening. Playing is a part of many different animals’ lives and is a very important activity preparing young animals for adulthood. 

When animals play they are mimicking movements and activities they will use as adults such as fighting, hunting, and mating.

The mother brings them many food items throughout the month. Most of the items she brings back to the den are unidentifiable. In the past I have captured images of this skunk bringing snakes and small mammals to her dens earlier in the year. 

Spotted skunks are primarily insectivores, but are opportunistic feeders that will eat anything they can find, including snakes, lizards, small mammals, frogs, birds, eggs, berries, and carrion.

I am not exactly sure what this kit is playing with and chewing on. 

I am not exactly sure what this kit is playing with and chewing on. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Spotted skunk hair snares

Guest post by Chuck Waggy

I have been experimenting with baited hair snares to collect hair samples from eastern spotted skunks for DNA testing.  These snares were designed and constructed by Greg Turner, PGC.  They consist of heavy schedule PVC pipe and rifle cleaning brushes.  Since the goal of this exercise was to determine if spotted skunks would enter the snare and if the collection brushes would obtain hair samples I used one of my telemetered skunks, which has an offspring still with her, as the “guinea pig”.  The location of these two skunks was always known and was very near an access road, which simplified logistics for setting up and checking the equipment.  Each hair snare was covered by two trail cameras, one video and one still.  Another goal of this exercise was to determine if the snares could survive a black bear mauling.

Hair snares and cameras were placed at three different sites at different times.  The telemetered skunk was known to be at each site when the equipment was placed.  Cameras indicated spotted skunks visited the snares and hair samples were obtained on the brushes at all sites.  I have not yet had the opportunity to analyze the hair but a preliminary check indicates it is probably spotted skunk hair and cams didn’t indicate any other animals (except mice and a bear) visiting the snares. 

One of the snares easily survived some very rough treatment by a black bear (this was verified on video).  If anyone is interested in using a snare of this type they can contact Greg for the plans.  I made a few modifications to Greg’s snares but not sure if they were significant or needed.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Spotted Skunks of Alabama

Ty preparing to handle an eastern spotted skunk in TNF
Guest post by Ty Sprayberry

The University of West Georgia Wildlife Conservation Lab is conducting an intensive study of eastern spotted skunks in the Shoal Creek Ranger District of Talladega National Forest. Talladega National Forest (TNF) is located at the confluence of the Appalachian Plateau, Valley and Ridge, and Piedmont provinces within the southern Appalachian Mountains of Alabama. Ty Sprayberry, a master’s student under the advisorship of Dr. Andrew Edelman, has been radio-collaring and monitoring den use of spotted skunks in TNF since January 2015. He has captured 8 skunks and identified over 70 unique den sites across the study area. In August 2015, a new master’s student, William Cornelison, joined the research effort. His thesis will examine habitat use of spotted skunks by radio-tracking individuals across seasons. Their research is funded by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, US Forest Service, and the UWG Biology Department. Spotted skunks are listed as a protected species in Alabama, but little is known regarding their natural history and distribution in the state. Prior to documenting this species in TNF, only 10 confirmed sightings of spotted skunks had been reported in Alabama since 2000. Our research will provide basic ecological data on the eastern spotted skunk that will improve management of this small furbearer within the region. 

An eastern spotted skunk den in an old stump.
An eastern spotted skunk den in an uprooted tree.

To capture spotted skunks for radio-collaring, we establish camera trap stations baited with sardines and fatty acid scent tablets and monitored by a remote game camera. We also place several baited live traps at the site, but wire the doors open to prevent an animal from being captured. Once a spotted skunk is documented at a camera trap we set the live traps in the evening and check for captures the following morning. When a skunk is captured we approach the trap wearing Tyvek suits and face shields while holding up a tarp to avoid receiving a direct spray.  The skunk is maneuvered into a denim handling cone which allows the skunk to be handled. After a skunk is radio-collared we tracked the individual to their den during the day and triangulate their location at night.  

An eastern spotted skunk biting a radio collar while being ear tagged.

A female eastern spotted skunk dragging a snake back into her den.

Currently, we have captured 8 spotted skunks, 6 of which have been radio-collared. Of the radio-collared individuals, one has disappeared from the study area immediately after capture and another one recently lost its collar. Once a den site is identified, we measure a variety of habitat characteristics around the site as well as a nearby random site for comparison. We also place game cameras on dens to document activity patterns and collect natural history data on diet, species interactions, and reproduction. To measure habitat use, we are locating radio-collared skunks during the day and night to allow calculation of home ranges. We just recently began triangulating skunk locations at night, which involves several researchers simultaneously recording the signal direction from a radio collar.  Our current goal is to locate radio-collared skunks ≥ 5 times during the night and day each month (30 locations per season). Eventually these data will be used to construct home ranges to examine landscape-scale habitat use of eastern spotted skunks in Talladega National Forest.

Spotted skunk outside of its den performing a handstand display.
An eastern spotted skunk performing a handstand display towards a bobcat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Spotted skunks can use tiny dens

More observations from Chuck Waggy in West Virginia about den site selection/creation by the female spotted skunk he has been tracking for the past several months (Angie).

"Angie is getting notorious for using very small, non-descript burrows.  These burrows are tough to find now that the leaves are falling and partially covering them.  These burrows are max. 2 in. X 3 in., some smaller.  Would be real interesting to know how she finds them, as all of them are new (at least to me since Apr.).  As I am tracking these guys I am looking for possible den sites.  There are a jillion of them out there so no wonder these guys can roam anywhere/anytime.  They can den up just about any time they want."

Monday, October 12, 2015

Do camera traps impact spotted skunk behavior?

Comments from Chuck Waggy as he uses multiple camera trap types at a spotted skunk den in West Virginia:

"This has happened several times. I have had out a Reconyx cam set on stills (Reconyx does not have video capability) and a Bushnell set in tandem for video in all cases. Note the flashes. Those flashes are the Reconyx firing and appears to set the skunk off. Don't quite understand this as when the Bushnell is taking pics separately skunks seem to be at ease. Don't know if Reconyx flash or some sound from Reconyx is setting the skunks off. Bushnells don't seem to bother them. Both are IR (not IR blackouts).

Hate to say this but I am finding that Reconyx cams are not catching the action like the Bushnells and Reconyx are set on high sensitivity, Bushnells on normal."

The end.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Spotted skunk on film

More great stuff from Chuck Waggy in West Virginia as he continues his eastern spotted skunk monitoring.  These images of a young spotted skunk by its den show us not only that they are performers in front of a camera, but provide a great example of their distinctive defensive hand-stand behavior.

Also, like any celebrity, they can get tired of the constant attention.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Unstoppable Chuck Waggy

Chuck Waggy dreams about spotted skunks.  He wakes up each morning wondering where his two little buddies are that day.  Which parts of the mountain above his rural West Virginia home they moved around in during the night, and where they are now denned up for the day.

Chuck gained spotted skunk fame three years ago for his camera trap images of spotted skunks as part of the Appalachian Eagle Monitoring Program.  Since that time, he has likely captured more camera trap images of the species than anyone else alive, and it is little wonder state and university scientists came to Chuck (a retired West Virginia Division of Natural Resources employee himself) for help in learning more about this cryptic mammal of the forest.

In April, Emily Thorne, a graduate student studying spotted skunks at Virginia Tech, drove up to visit Chuck and help take his spotted skunk tracking to the next level by placing radio-tracking collars on a few animals.  All told, they captured 4 spotted skunks in April of this year.  Two animals mysteriously vanished within weeks of collaring, but two have stayed in the area with their collars on so that Chuck, equipped with a radio-tracking antenna and the specific frequency coordinates, can track the skunks.

Planning to start up a similar spotted skunk project in South Carolina this fall, Emily and I joined Chuck for the afternoon of a late July day to learn more about what has worked and not worked during his pioneering study.  Upon arriving, he immediately begins talking about Angie and Sal is if they are members of his family.  It takes me a minute to realize he is talking about two spotted skunks which he has affectionately named after family members.

We load into his truck on the muggy day and begin the climb up an old forest service road near his home, through several locked gates, and are finally on the mountain Sal and Angie call home.  All 4 spotted skunks originally captured were trapped very close together, at one point all on one photograph (see related earlier blog post).   Chuck believes that was a one-time event during the breeding season, and his tracking over the past 3 months has revealed that the two skunks which remained collared have been relatively far apart from one another.  Not only is separate dens, but on some nights by making rather dramatic, solitary movements to new areas of the mountain that have required countless hours and circuits around the mountain for Chuck to track down.

We step out of the truck and into the mid-afternoon heat.  Midges and gnats swarm our heads, running into our eyes and buzzing our ears.  Rain has been generous this year and we walk up to a ridge noticing dozens of species of fungi growing in rainbow of collars from the forest floor and bases of large oak trees.  Gypsy moths have been very active and taken a toll on the forest this year.  We walk past oak tree after oak tree whose rough bark is littered with old casings and the yellow hard foam mats of egg cases.  Chuck turns on his GPS unit to walk us to several old den sites used by Angie and Sal.  The first site is located 20 feet up an oak tree.  Most studies of spotted skunks focus on the root masses or rocky outcrops on the ground that provide vital den cover, it appears these Appalachian skunks find trees equally of use. I ask Emily if there is a pattern emerging and she says that she thinks that "they are opportunists," taking advantage  of whenever a suitable opening is available.  Indeed Chuck's data shows that they will revisit dens, hanging out in an area for a few days, then moving on to another den.  Perhaps in search of food?  Perhaps due to territoriality?  As Chuck reminds me, with only two skunks collared is to hard to know for sure.

We top the ridge and Chuck puts away his GPS and turns on his radio-tracking equipment.  We are done with looking for old dens, and start looking for where Angie is right now.  The signal is faint but comes from the southwest, diagonally downhill and on the other side of the mountain from where we parked.  Chuck leads the way, pausing every few minutes to scan and determine which direction produces the strongest signal.  In addition to trees, Chuck has documented that his two spotted skunks often den under rocks, under upturned root masses, and hollow logs.  The consistent theme being under cover that can dramatically impact the strength of the signal.  That, combined with the steep topography of these closely packed ridges and valleys can cause a signal to bounce around, from one valley to another, leading Chuck around the mountain for hours.  By the end of the day, the last piece of advice Chuck would leave me with is to develop a "skunk sense" to be able to minimize the amount of time one wanders around in the hills.  I could already see that I needed to dramatically increase my skunk IQ, and fast.

The signal picks up as we continue down hill, further and further from the truck.  Despite walking down hill, we begin to pour sweat.  We top a small ridge and pause again to catch our bearings.  The skunk is close now, the pings coming off the receiver are so loud that Chuck can detach the antenna from the receiver and still hear Angie's signal.  A rocky outcropping catches our eye.  This is the bit of skunk sense Chuck alluded to, knowing what is likely suitable for a skunk even when it is hidden underground from view.  Chuck climbs up and narrows down on the exact crevice she is likely sleeping away the heat of the day in.  I climb up and notice a slightly skunky smell, but then it passes and we are left with only the pinging of the receiver to confirm that she is indeed there.

Chuck pulls out his notepad and records the specifics of the site, canopy cover, location, den type, date, etc.  I back off to take mental note of Angie's choice of locations.  Tall oaks shelter the ground such that only a moderate amount of light gets down to the sparse mountain laurel and patches of bright green moss in the duffy understory below.  A small creek trickles somewhere several hundred feet downhill but out of view due to the growth of lush ferns.  Nearby, a brilliant red summer tanager flits among leaves of a dogwood.  As Chuck finishes recording his data, Emily and I are sent with the GPS unit to look at a couple of additional old dens further down hill as Chuck trudges back uphill to get the truck and collect us down at the bottom of the mountain.   We attempt to use the GPS,  but the closed forest canopy keeps its navigational arrow bouncing around, telling us to go left, then right, as it struggles to connect to satellites.  We finally stumble on the orange flagging marking one of Angie's old dens and notice nothing more than a small hole in the ground by the base of a fallen pine.  Hardly large enough for a house cat to fit its head in, there is a curious 2-foot-long section of snake vertebrae leading out of the burrow entrance, picked nearly clean.  Emily immediately reaches down for a closer look, then drops it, remarking on how it is still fresh.  Soft with flies still around, it has to be a fairly fresh kill, within the past week if not couple of days.  Given that it is at a den site, we assume it was the prey of a spotted skunk.  Not the normally reported diet of insects and small mammals were accustomed to reading about, but not entirely surprising given that our friends down in Alabama did get a photo of a spotted skunk carrying a snake in a camera trap image this past year. 

Walking back to the road my mind begins to wander.  Was this Angie's kill?  How many spotted skunks are up here?  We know there were at least 4 in the area in March, drawn to the bait put out by Chuck during harsh winter months, but are there more?   Again, the more we learn, the more we questions what we know about this species.  Chuck is already showing that what applies to spotted skunk behavior down in Arkansas and Florida does not apply here.  Perhaps most worrisome, Angie, a female spotted skunk is moving around a lot.  Not the sign of a mother with a litter of young skunk pups.  Did she fail to produce?  Did she loose her litter to a predator?  This all gets at the question of how spotted skunks are doing in this region.  Are they increasing?  Declining?  Is this just a last isolated pocket of the species or are they running around at night in relatively healthy populations scattered along the forested spine of the Appalachian mountains.  Thanks to people like Chuck, scientists and managers no longer have to daydream about the answers to these questions, but they are being tested and answered hard-earned field data.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Florida conundrum

While we struggle to find the diminutive eastern spotted skunk in the Appalachians, folks continue to provide observations from Florida.  We have previously reported on this blog of spotted skunk roadkill near Melbourne Beach, spotted skunks in a Florida cloths dryer vent, spotted skunks in Florida backyards with house cats, and now a spotted skunk digging under a Florida side walk.  You can see the full video provided to us by Judith Huff of Palm Beach ( here).

Perhaps even more perplexing, these observations were all in broad daylight!  Compare that to our more reclusive and nocturnal Appalachian populations and we are left with some very big natural history differences between Florida and interior US.  How do they survive in these suburban environments in Florida but seem to be relicts of protected forest lands in the Appalachians?  There is still so much we do not know about this species, so please keep the observations coming so we can continue to learn more.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spotted skunk in my cloths dryer!

Guest post by Clemson University student Taz Lanini

WAUCHULA, FLORIDA -- When Tanya Ayers investigated a foul smell dispelling from her laundry room, she and her boyfriend, Mike Huffman, discovered a small skunk that had been staying in her dryer by climbing through the vent outside. The couple chased the animal away only to find another skunk living in a burrow in Tanya’s barn floor. Later, when the skunks returned, Tanya was ready with her video camera. 

We helped them confirm that these were Eastern spotted skunks!  Rarely encountered throughout their range outside of Florida, the fact that Mike and Tanya had managed to document a case in which spotted skunks were seeking shelter so extremely close to people is what made this encounter so unusual and interesting.

Mike and Tanya wanted to get rid of their dryer intruders, so Dr. Jachowski explained that spotted skunks are "very attracted to areas with openings and burrows.  So removing access to the dryer should cause the skunks to move along in search of new shelter."  He suggested putting a screen over the dryer vent to block the skunks from climbing inside Tanya’s dryer in the future.  We look forward to hearing what happens next!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spotting the Spotted Skunk: Historical and Current Ranges

Guest post by Clemson University wildlife student Rob Colquhoun

Up until the 1940’s, Spotted Skunks were an important furbearer species in the Great Plains states and were a fairly common sight, but then something happened. People started noticing that there were less and less sightings of the skunks and by the 1980’s they became a rare sight. Now, many states list the Eastern Spotted Skunk as endangered or as a species of concern. The seemingly sudden decline doesn’t appear to be linked to overharvesting rates though, instead it seems to be due to development of their preferred habitats.

Spotted Skunk are very particular when it comes to the places that they call home. They prefer habitat with lots of brush, understory cover, a closed canopy and rocky outcrops; this allows them to hide from predators like hawks and Great Horned Owls, that can’t penetrate the thick brush. Knowing this, its no surprise that populations have decreased from their historic numbers, because of habitat loss and development.

There are 4 distinct subspecies of spotted skunk within North America: the Western Spotted Skunk (Spilogale gracilis), the Eastern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius), Southern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale angustifrons) and the Pygmy Spotted Skunk (Spilogale pygmaea). Our species of concern, the Eastern Spotted Skunk, is very rarely sighted.

The populations of Eastern Spotted Skunks that remain in South Carolina are mainly clustered in the upstate, where there is less development and more of the dense understory that they prefer. Recently, an extremely bright group of students have been conducting a population survey, placing camera traps in public lands near sightings from the past few decades. So far, 5 spotted skunks have been caught on camera, the first documented sightings in the state in over 16 years.

For more information on historic ranges and preferred habitat of the Eastern Spotted Skunk, you can read Lesmeister et al.’s paper “Eastern Spotted Skunk Survival and Cause-Specific Mortality in the Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas”, found in The American Midland Naturalist Journal, issue 164.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Judgment Day

Guest Post by Clemson wildlife student Amy Klink

How do we choose what animals are more critical and require assistance over helping others? Policy makers have the difficult challenge of managing wildlife species that meets the needs of the animal, public opinion, and a strict budget. New research suggests establishment of endangered species restoration habitats can negatively affect eastern spotted skunks. One such case involves the conflict between the skunk and the infamous red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW).

Typically eastern spotted skunks prefer an early successional habitat supporting a dense understory. The dense understory is so crucial because it creates escape cover from avian predators On the other hand; RCW requires a mature, open pine forest.  The RCW habitat requires a frequent burn to open up the understory. This causes conflict for the spotted skunks. 

Damon Lesmeister, Rachel Crowhusrt, Joshua Millspaugh, and Matthew Gompper (2013) took a closer look at this conflict. They conducted their study in the Ouachita National Forest where there is a mix of pine forest types ranging from both burned and unburned areas and mature and young pine areas. Using track plates, the study surveyed the number of spotted skunks in five different forest stand types (control, burned mature, unburned mature, burned young, and unburned young). Based on their techniques, Lesmesiter et al. (2013) found more spotted skunks in large, younger pine stands, which was the opposite of the typical RCW habitat. They concluded that forest stand age was imperative when spotted skunks and RCW choose a habitat.

This causes major clash between two species that have seen a dramatic decline in populations. It brings up the questions again, how do we evaluate which species should be managed? This ethical question is a never-ending challenge most government officials have to go through every day.

Further Reading

Lesmeister, D. B., R. S. Crowhurst, J. J. Millspaugh, and M. E. Gomper. (2013). Landscape ecology of eastern spotted skunks in habitats restored for red-cockaded woodpeckers. Restoration Ecology, 21, 267-275. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spotted skunk tussle

Spotted skunk camera trap extraordinaire Chuck Waggy sent us a couple of videos he captured recently of spotted skunks approaching a box trap in West Virginia.  In the coming days we will start trapping and placing radio collars on these animals.  In the mean time, it is fun to see these normally cryptic animals move and interact.

Chuck also shared with us this amazing video of two spotted skunks tussling near the trap.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Camera Trapping Process

Guest post by Clemson wildlife student Sarah Wilson:

Our spotted skunk camera trap team consists of seven undergraduate students from Clemson University and our professor, Dr. David Jachowski. We are hoping to confirm the presence of the elusive eastern spotted skunk in South Carolina through an extensive camera trap survey in the southern Appalachians, along with figuring out what kind of habitats they use in South Carolina. We have twenty-six cameras traps that will be moved to different sites every two weeks. Once we have confirmation of skunks at our cameras, we will attempt to find a similarities in the habitat that each skunk is found in. We hope to add to the little knowledge known about preferred habitat characteristics of this species and confirm that they do, in fact, still reside in this state.

Step 1: Choosing the camera site.

One of the few things we know about this animal is that it prefers areas with a closed canopy and thick undergrowth. This is likely because a common predator of spotted skunks is the great horned owl, which is not able to efficiently hunt in younger, thicker forests. They also utilize logs and burrows dug by other species as dens. These are the different things that we look for when choosing an appropriate site for setting up a camera. Two trees about twelve feet apart are selected, one for the camera and one to hold the bait. The two trees should be a size appropriate for wrapping a cord around to attach the camera or large enough to nail on the sardine can.

The two larger trees were used to hold the bait and camera.

Step 2: Setting up the bait.

Canned fish and commercially made fruit paste are both common baits used to lure in mesocarnivores such as spotted skunks. We chose to use canned sardines in oil because they are readily available and the oil contributes to the distinct smell that will lure in wildlife. A hammer and nail are used to punch about twelve holes through the backside of the sardine can and then it is nailed to the base of the tree designated as the bait tree. The holes in the can allow the oil to run down the tree and scent tendrils from the fish inside pull spotted skunks to the bait.

Rob C. hammers a can of sardines to the selected tree.

Lesson Learned: The first weekend we set out our cameras, we only used two nails to hold each sardine can to its tree. When we went out the next weekend to check on the cameras to make sure they still had bait, the third site we checked was completely missing its sardine can! Guesses for potential culprits included raccoon and opossum. When we checked the pictures from that camera, this is what we found:

This coyote had no problem ripping our bait off the tree! Now, we use four nails in each can in hopes of keeping it more secure.

Step 3: Setting up the camera.

The camera is pretty easy to setup. First we take note of the memory card and camera number and mark that down on the data sheet for the site. The camera must be armed and placed in its protective case. A lockable cable is strung through the case and around the tree. This step involves two people. One person to hold the camera in place against the tree while the second person is tightening the cable. Now, finer adjustments can be made to make sure it is aligned properly with the bait. One person gets eye level with the bait and instructs the others on what adjustments need to be made. Once it is facing the right direction, block wedges are placed between the camera and the tree, if needed, to tilt it downwards towards the bait. Finally, a straight stick is used to get a better idea of how well we positioned the camera.

Amy K. and Dr. Jachowski adjusting the camera.

Step 4: Habitat data collection

Since the major predators of spotted skunks are large birds, such as great horned owls, they prefer to live in areas that make it difficult for these birds to hunt, such as those with a dense understory and closed canopy. Throughout their geographic range they are found in young shortleaf pine stands with an abundance of vines, slopes, and denning sites. These denning sites, along with resting sites, are selected based on the amount of surrounding undergrowth and the ability to protect from predation, weather, and light.

After setting the camera, we record observations about the surrounding habitat that take into account the habitat characteristics that we know about spotted skunks in other states. These include canopy cover, understory cover, dominant canopy and understory species present, presence and number of rocky outcrops, and presence and number of woody debris. This information is just as important as the pictures the camera trap will give us. Without knowing the characteristics of the camera site, if it were to capture an image of a spotted skunk we wouldn’t have any way to know what habitats they are attracted to and what new sites might also have skunky habitat.

The Final Product of Our Efforts:

Sarah R. and Rob C. are proud of their camera trap.

Further Reading:

Lesmeister, D. B., J. J. Millspaugh, M. E. Gompper, T. W. Mong. 2010. Eastern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius) Survival and Cause-specific Mortality in Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas. The American Midland Naturalist 164: 52-60.

Lesmeister, D. B., M. E. Gompper, J. J. Millspaugh. 2009. Habitat Selection and Home Range Dynamics of Eastern Spotted Skunks in the Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas, USA. The Journal of Wildlife Management 73: 18-25.

Lesmeister, D. B., M. E. Gompper, J. J. Millspaugh. 2008. Summer Resting and Den Site Selection by Eastern Spotted Skunks (Spilogale putorius) in Arkansas. Journal of Mammology 86: 1512-1520.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Surfeit of Spotted Skunks in West Virginia

Eastern spotted skunk expert and camera trap extraordinaire Chuck Waggy sent us this series of images he recently collected in West Virginia.  Never before have I seen more than one spotted skunk in a camera trap image, let alone 3.  Given that (1) spotted skunks are generally thought to be solitary animals, (2) this is just before breeding season, and (3) families are not thought to remain together this long, it is unclear what this surfeit (what a group of skunks are termed) of skunks were doing together at this deer carcass.

Then, a couple of days later, Chuck set the bar even higher by detecting 4 different spotted skunks at the site.  

The new record has been set and further shows that the more we see and learn, the more the mysteries of the eastern spotted skunk continue to grow.