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Temporal Assessment of Eastern Spotted Skunk Geographic Distribution

Amanda E. Cheeseman1,2,*, Brian P. Tanis1,3, and Elmer J. Finck1

1Department of Biological Sciences, Fort Hays State University, Hays, KS 67601. 2Current address - Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY 13210. 3Current address - Oregon State University - Cascades, Bend, OR 97002. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist,Volume 20, Special Issue 11 (2021): 24–38

Abstract
Spilogale putorius (Eastern Spotted Skunk) experienced range-wide population declines beginning in the mid-1900s with no clear understanding of the causal mechanism or whether such declines were associated with range contractions. Species-distribution models can provide a powerful framework to assess changes in landscape suitability in response to changing environmental conditions. Herein, we modeled time-stepped distributions of suitable environmental conditions for Eastern Spotted Skunks from 1938 to 2016 in Maxent, incorporating climate and land-cover predictors. Climate and land-cover variables reliably predicted landscape suitability of Eastern Spotted Skunks over time. We found a 37% decline in suitable area from historic predictions, consistent with reports of population declines in these areas. Our predicted landscape-suitability maps can be used to evaluate the current distribution of environmentally suitable conditions for the species as well as guide research and conservation efforts.

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