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First Documentation of Two Types of Aboveground Den Structures in the Eastern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius)

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

1Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist,Volume 20, Special Issue 11 (2021): 225–233

Spilogale putorius (Eastern Spotted Skunk) is a small, nocturnal carnivore that typically spends daylight hours resting in underground den sites. During a study on the den-site selection of S. p. ambarvalis (Florida Spotted Skunk) in the dry prairie of south-central Florida in 2016 and 2017, we tracked individuals to discernible aboveground structures composed of vegetation on 25 occasions. These structures were 1 of 2 easily distinguishable types: large mounds of vegetation primarily composed of shredded Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto), or smaller cup-like structures with a horizontal entrance that resembled a ground-nesting bird’s nest. These sites were occasionally reused by individual skunks, and on 1 occasion we observed 2 female spotted skunks occupying a site at the same time. Due to the absence of other wildlife species in the study area capable of making such structures, we believe that these structures were created by the skunks themselves. While Eastern Spotted Skunks are known to pull vegetation into their underground burrows, and have been documented occupying man-made structures (e.g., haystacks) as den sites, our observations represent the first documentation of aboveground, self-constructed structures being repeatedly used by this species. Use of these structures might be unique to Florida Spotted Skunk due to reduced predation risk or occasional flooding in the region that temporarily reduces availability of underground den sites.

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