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Genetic Confirmation of Predation of an Adult Female Eastern Spotted Skunk by a Barred Owl

Kendyl N. Hassler1,3, Brin E. Kessinger2,Caroline E. Harms2, Lucas E. Price2, Ethan P. Barton3, Kevin J. Oxenrider3, Rich E. Rogers3, Kelly J. Pearce4, Thomas L. Serfass1,*, and Amy B. Welsh2

1Frostburg State University, Department of Biology, Frostburg, MD 21532. 2School of Natural Resources, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506. 3West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, WV 26757. 4Department of Environmental Science and Sustainability, Allegheny College, Meadville, PA 16335. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist,Volume 20, Special Issue 11 (2021): 110–118

Avian predation is a primary cause of mortality for Spilogale putorius (Eastern Spotted Skunk) and is generally attributed to Bubo virginianus (Great Horned Owl). We report the first confirmed avian predation of an Eastern Spotted Skunk by a Strix varia (Barred Owl). The radio-collar of an adult female Eastern Spotted Skunk was recovered alongside an owl pellet containing Eastern Spotted Skunk remains in eastern West Virginia. DNA sampled from the surface of the pellet was amplified, sequenced, and compared to known Barred Owl and Great Horned Owl sequences. Differences in 2 single nucleotide polymorphisms confirmed a Barred Owl produced the pellet. Our findings show Barred Owls are at least occasionally an avian predator of this species in eastern forest ecosystems.

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