Capture-site characteristics for eastern spotted skunks in mature forests during summer
Spilogale putorius (Eastern Spotted Skunk) is an increasingly rare species undergoing population declines throughout many portions of its range. We incidentally captured Eastern Spotted Skunks in snake traps during a study examining effects of woodland restoration on herpetofauna in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. We used extensive habitat data collected at each trap site to determine potential characteristics of sites where Eastern Spotted Skunks were more likely to occur during summer. We recorded 18 Eastern Spotted Skunk captures in 10 of our 36 drift-fence traps. Capture rates of Eastern Spotted Skunks were 6 times greater and occupancy rates were 9 times greater in unmanaged, mature forests with a well-developed midstory than in frequently burned woodlands that lacked a midstory. Higher-occupancy rates were associated with greater total cover, greater cover of woody understory vegetation, and sparse forb cover. Our data support those of previous studies that suggest Eastern Spotted Skunks occur in areas with dense cover, which may include mature forests with well-developed midstories.