Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Jason R. Boulanger
Few studies have investigated the ecology of urban striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) despite their role as a primary rabies vector species paired with an ability to thrive in these landscapes. Our aim was to obtain baseline ecological information with an emphasis on spatial ecology of urban striped skunks in the Northern Great Plains region that is missing in the literature. This information, such as home range, nightly movements, habitat selection, and denning behavior is important for informing rabies management decisions such as the placement of oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits. We used radio telemetry equipment to track 22 (4M, 18 F) skunks from September 2016âNovember 2016 and March 2017âNovember 2017 and monitored denning sites with trail cameras October 2016âJuly 2017. Size of home ranges estimated using kernel density estimation and least squares cross validation determined males (x Ì = 4.36 km2, SE Â± 0.79) had larger home ranges than females (x Ì = 1.79 km2, SE Â± 0.24). Female skunk home ranges differed by season with the largest home ranges found in summer 2017. However, rate of nightly movements (m/hr) among female skunks did not differ within seasons (x Ì = 184.79 m/hr, SE Â± 0.53). Moreover, we found no evidence that use-availability was associated with habitat type among female skunks. The strongest predictor of habitat use was distance to water sources with female skunks more likely to be found closer to this habitat type; however, we found no association of use with road factors and geographic location within the city. We observed communal denning in 3 winter den sites, which could amplify rabies transmission during these periods of inactivity. Targeting ORV efforts in areas near water and den sites may be warranted, but considering differences in urban skunk habitat selection studies, we caution that ORV baiting programs may not be one-size-fits-all, and a framework for effective bait placement would be most successful should similar studies be conducted beforehand.
Schneider, Anna, "Evaluation Of Movements And Habitat Use Of Suburban Striped Skunks (Mephitis Mephitis) In The Northern Great Plains To Inform Rabies Management" (2018). Theses and Dissertations. 2335.