Schneider, A.L., A.T. Gilbert, W.D. Walter, G.S. Vandeberg, J.R. Boulanger. 2019. Spatial Ecology of Urban Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) in the Northern Great Plains: A Framework for Future Oral Rabies Vaccination Programs. Urban Ecosystems 22:539-552.
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. Information on home range, nightly movements, and habitat selection, is important for informing rabies management decisions such as the placement of oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits and for management of the species. 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 lacking in the literature. We used radio telemetry to track 22 (4 M, 18 F) skunks from September 2016 to November 2016 and March 2017 to November 2017. Size of home range using kernel density estimation with smoothing by least squares cross validation identified males (x ̅ = 4.36 km2, SE ± 0.79) had larger home ranges than females (x ̅ = 1.79 km2, SE ± 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 ̅ = 184.79 m/hr, SE ± 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 study area. Targeting ORV efforts in areas near water may be warranted, but considering differences in habitat selection for skunk in urban areas, we caution that ORV baiting programs may not be one-size-fits-all, and a framework for effective bait placement would be most successful with studies similar to ours conducted beforehand.