SUMMER RESTING AND DEN SITE SELECTION BY EASTERN SPOTTED SKUNKS (SPILOGALE PUTORIUS) IN ARKANSAS

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Abstract

Denning and resting site use by radiocollared eastern spotted skunks (Spilogale putorius) in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas was investigated from May through August 2005 and 2006. We identified and characterized microhabitat and landscape characteristics of 127 resting and den sites. Sites were located in burrows excavated by other mammal species (48%), in decayed or burned root systems (22%), in rocky outcrops (14%), in eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana) nests (9%), or in ground-level tree or log cavities (7%). Reuse of sites by the same individual was common (32.3%), but use of the same site by different individuals was rare, as was communal use of sites (<1.0% each). Contrasting used and putatively available dens and resting sites, we found that sites were selected based primarily on increased vegetative cover, which supports hypotheses that thermal regulation and predator avoidance may underlie den and resting site selection. Higher rock and vine densities, younger pine forest stands, older hardwood stands, steeper slope, and smaller site entrance also positively influenced resting and den site selection. These findings suggest that eastern spotted skunks select structurally complex sites, likely to enhance protection from predators. Eastern spotted skunks may thus be vulnerable to habitat alterations that reduce this structural complexity.

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