Spilogale putorius


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Spilogale putorius
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name/s:
English Eastern Spotted Skunk, Spotted Skunk
Spanish Zorillo Manchado
Taxonomic Notes: Based on patterns of mtDNA variation in Mustelidae, Dragoo and Honeycut (1997) recommended that skunks (Mephitis, Conepatus, Spilogale) and the Oriental Stink Badger (Mydaus) be separated as a distinct family (Mephitidae). Wozencraft (2005) recognized the family Mephitidae.

S. gracilis has been included in S. putorius by some authors (Wozencraft, 1993). Mead (1968) argued that S. gracilis and possibly S. leucoparia, both of which were included in S. putorius by Van Gelder (1959) and Hall (1981), are reproductively isolated from eastern populations and therefore should be considered distinct species. Jones et al. (1992), Baker et al. (2003), and Wozencraft (2005) recognized S. gracilis and S. putorius as separate species.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Cuarón, A.D., Reid, F. & Helgen, K.
Reviewer/s: Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is listed as Least Concern as it occurs in numerous protected areas and is suspected to have large populations, although the populations status of this species is unclear throughout its range (Kaplan and Mead 1991, Reed and Kennedy 2000). In addition this species has a wide distribution range and occurs in a variety of habitats. Although the species is declining in portions of its range, this is not at a rate fast enough to be threatened.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) from eastern Canada to northeast Mexico. It occurs throughout south-central Pennsylvania down the Appalachian Mountain chain to Florida, west to the Continental Divide and south to Tamaulipas, Mexico (Hall, 1981; Kinlaw, 1995).

Increases in geographic range of eastern spotted skunks in the Great Plains may be correlated with increases in the amount of land devoted to agriculture, because agricultural practices provide outbuildings as shelter and encourage commensal house-mice (Mus musculus) that serve as a prey base (Choate et al., 1974). By the 1940s eastern spotted skunks were reported in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, areas in which they had not previously occurred (Van Gelder, 1959).
Canada; United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species has been known in several areas of the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States since the early 1900s (Howell, 1906). However, the abundance of Spilogale putorius in the southern Appalachians is unclear and Reed and Kennedy (2000) showed that the species occurs in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee at low density. Lee et al. (1982) suggested that Spilogale putorius was abundant in North Carolina in the Appalachian Mountains and Howell (1921) reported the species as common in Alabama.

Few reports of population density for Spilogale putorius are available. Crabb (1948) pointed out that estimates in an agricultural area of Iowa could range between one eastern spotted skunk per 11.4 ha to one per 5.0 ha, depending on the method of calculation. Additionally, data collected in 1973–1974 (Ehrhart, 1974) at Canaveral National Seashore, Florida, revealed a density estimate of one S. putorius per 2.5 ha.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Prefer forested areas or habitats with significant cover (Dragoo and Honeycutt, 1999). Also open and brushy areas, rocky canyons and outcrops in woodlands and prairies. When inactive or bearing young, occupies den in burrow abandoned by other mammal, under brushpile, in hollow log or tree, in rock crevice, under building, or in similar protected site.

Eastern spotted skunks are primarily insectivivorous. When insects are unavailable, this species preys on small mammals, mainly rodents and young rabbits (Boppel and Long, 1994).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no major threats to this species. The main cause of current mortality of this species is represented by automobile roadkills (Rosatte, 1987). The pelts of both eastern and western spotted skunks represent an insignificant fraction of the modern fur trade. In the 1983-1984 trapping season, 5,588 pelts described as spotted skunk were harvested in the United States (Novak et al., 1987). The species is declining in the midwest and portions of the east, but common in southern Florida (Reid 2006). Pesticides present a threat to the species in areas with intensive agriculture.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The populations status of this species is in question throughout its range (Kaplan and Mead, 1991). It is listed as endangered in Missouri, and threatened in Iowa and Kansas. It has been listed as "special concern" in Minnesota (since 1984) and also similarly listed in Nebraska (Boppel and Long, 1994). It is corsidered "rare" in North Dakota and Oklahoma (Wires and Baker, 1994).

Reed and Kennedy (2000) in a study conducted in eastern Tennessee argued that it is still not clear that conservation measures are necessary to insure long-term perpetuation of the species, because there is no evidence of a decline in eastern spotted skunks over time in that region. Programs to monitor this species in eastern Tennessee would contribute significantly to the long-term perpetuation of the species in the southern Appalachians.
Citation: Cuarón, A.D., Reid, F. & Helgen, K. 2008. Spilogale putorius. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 17 April 2014.
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