Monday, December 25, 2017

Skunk in the bbq

Brian in San Marcos, California recently shared this photo of a cute little western spotted skunk his three small dogs found under their covered bbq grill.  Luckily his dogs got away with only a slight spray in the nose.  He has lived in the area over 25 years and this was his first sighting, further illustrating that these little guys can be in your backyard and are harmless.  So letting them be and enjoying having such a gentle tiny neighbor who is likely eating bugs and mice on your property in the middle of the night is a good thing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cougar vs. skunk

While not a spotted skunk, this video from Canada of a mountain lion approaching a stripped skunk is too cool not to post.  More evidence of the value of scent glands and how it allows these small carnivores to co-exist with larger carnivores on the landscape.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Skunks in Vegas

R.J. Rios in southwest Las Vegas, Nevada reached out to share his recent encounter with a western spotted skunk:

"After a stressful game 5 (go Astros!) my wife let our two Jack Russells out to pee when she saw something run across out back porch area. After some investigation I found a skunk hiding behind our pavers. Worried that he might be stuck in our back yard and clueless to how he got in (the entire yard is almost completely surrounded by a 5 ft cinder block fence I tried to set up a box to hopefully rescue the little guy and set him free. I was unable to catch him, but did snap a photo. Noticing his very weird markings I began to google and came across your blog."

Thanks for sharing R.J.!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Nice bear

Chuck Waggy in West Virginia has been working hard trying to capture spotted skunk kits for an ongoing radio tracking study.   Unfortunately, bears love his bait and were consistently springing the traps he set prior to skunk kits finding them.  Then, after a month of trying, this past week he finally found a kind bear that just sniffed his trap, without springing it.  As luck would have it, the trap captured a skunk kit a few hours later.

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.

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.

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."