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Canine Distemper Outbreak in a Population of Eastern Spotted Skunks

Stephen N. Harris1,*, Colleen Olfenbuttel2, and David. S. Jachowski1

1Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634. 2North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Pittsboro, NC 27312. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist,Volume 20, Special Issue 11 (2021): 181–190

Canine distemper is an epizootic disease that can cause high mortality rates in carnivores, such as mustelids, and can have important deleterious effects on vulnerable, often small, carnivore populations due to its highly transmissible nature. In April and May 2020, we recovered 5 Spilogale putorius (Eastern Spotted Skunk) carcasses over a 15-day period that showed no visible signs of trauma. Clinical examination of the carcasses indicated that the skunks died due to canine distemper. Four of these skunks were radio-collared as part of our research at the time of their deaths, meaning that 50% of our study sample succumbed to distemper. Additionally, 2 other skunks we had radio-collared went missing during this time and might have contracted and died of distemper as well. To our knowledge, this is the first documented outbreak of distemper in Eastern Spotted Skunks. Our observation underscores the need to further study the effects of disease on the declining Eastern Spotted Skunk across its range.

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