Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Evaluating detection methods for a rare small carnivore, the eastern spotted skunk, Spilogale putorius (#480)

Robert C. Dowler 1 , James C. Perkins 1 , Alexandra A. Shaffer 1
  1. Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas, United States of America

The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) is an uncommon, diminutive carnivore historically distributed throughout much of the Central Great Plains, Appalachian Mountains, and peninsular Florida in the United States. While historically numerous, populations of the plains subspecies (S. p. interrupta) have plummeted range wide and the skunk is now being considered for listing under the U. S. Endangered Species Act.  We examined the current status of the eastern spotted skunk in Texas by first producing a species distribution model based on museum specimen records. From this model, 10 counties were chosen for field surveys conducted between September 2015 and January 2017. We evaluated both non-invasive (camera traps, track plates) and invasive techniques (live traps) to detect spotted skunks using a 7-day sampling protocol with 40 of each detection device deployed at each site. Spotted skunks were detected in 4 of the 10 sites sampled and all methods detected presence of skunks.  Live traps had more detections than either track plates or camera traps.  Recent observations of the spotted skunk were also crowd sourced from academia, wildlife professionals, and citizen scientists.  With these methods, recent verifiable observations of eastern spotted skunks were recorded in 20 additional Texas counties.  With the combination of field surveys, crowd sourcing, and citizen scientists, we determined that the plains subspecies of the eastern spotted skunk is still widely distributed in Texas, although only two areas sampled had relatively high abundance.