The Core Issue

The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) was once regarded as a fairly common furbearer throughout much of the Appalachians, Midwest and Ozark-Ouachita Highlands through the 1950’s as reported in trapping tallies.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the species has been rare or largely absent from most of the central and southern Appalachians over the last two decades with only occasional sightings and captures.  While regarded as “globally secure” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the eastern spotted skunk is classified as vulnerable or a sensitive species in need of management in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.   

It has been suggested that eastern spotted skunk decline has been a result of the loss of old field habitats due to expanding modern agricultural practices and maturation of early successional forests following  land abandonment in the Midwest and Ozark-Ouachita Highlands.   An analogous change in the amount of early successional oldfield and forest habitats also has occurred over large portions of the central and southern Appalachians on both public and private lands.

 In Arkansas, eastern spotted skunks exhibited a strong preference for early-successional shrub-scrub, oldfield and young forest regeneration habitat (specifically shortleaf pine Pinus echinata), and avoidance of either open forest savanna or mature forest condition.   In the Blue Ridge of eastern Tennessee, spotted skunks largely were associated with rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) thickets near emergent rock outcrops.  In the central Appalachians, very little is known about the distributional status or ecology of this species in this region.  

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