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Demography of the Appalachian Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius putorius)

Andrew R. Butler1,*, Andrew J. Edelman2, Robin Y.Y. Eng1, Stephen N. Harris1, Colleen Olfenbuttel3, Emily D. Thorne4, W. Mark Ford5, and David S. Jachowski1

1Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634. 2Department of Biology, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA 30118. 3Wildlife Management Division, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Pittsboro, NC 27312. 4Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061. 5US Geological Survey, Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Blacksburg, VA 240611. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist,Volume 20, Special Issue 11 (2021): 95–109

Spilogale putorius (Eastern Spotted Skunk) is a small, secretive carnivore that has substantially declined throughout the eastern United States since the mid-1900s. To better understand the current status of Eastern Spotted Skunks, we studied survival and reproduction of the S. p. putorius (Appalachian Spotted Skunk) subspecies across 4 states in the central and southern Appalachian Mountains from 2014 to 2020. Using encounter histories from 99 radio-collared Appalachian Spotted Skunks in a Kaplan–Meier known-fate survival analysis, we calculated a mean annual adult survival rate of 0.58. We did not find support for this survival rate varying by sex, predator cover (canopy cover and topographic ruggedness), or climate. Compared to estimates of survival from previous research, our data suggest that Appalachian Spotted Skunk survival is intermediate to the S. p. interrupta (Plains Spotted Skunk) and S. p. ambarvalis (Florida Spotted Skunk) subspecies of Eastern Spotted Skunk. We located 11 Appalachian Spotted Skunk natal dens and estimated mean litter size to be 2.8 juveniles per female. We used a Lefkovitch matrix to identify the most important demographic rates and found that adult survivorship had the largest impact on the population growth rate. These results provide important demographic information for future Eastern Spotted Skunk population viability analyses and can serve as a baseline for future comparative assessments of the effects of management interventions on the species.

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