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Mephitis mephitis

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA MEPHITIDAE

Scientific Name: Mephitis mephitis
Species Authority: (Schreber, 1776)
Common Name(s):
English Striped Skunk

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Reid, F. & Helgen, K.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
This species is listed as Least Concern as they are widely distributed in a variety of habitats including human altered habitats and have increased in abundance in many regions during recent years (Andren 1995, Kuehl and Clark 2002).

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The species occurs throughout most of southern Canada from British Columbia, Hudson Bay, and Nova Scotia, throughout the United States and into northern Mexico (Walker, 1964; Godin, 1982; Honacki et al., 1982).
Countries:
Native:
Canada; Mexico; United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Density estimates for striped skunk populations ranged from 0.7 to 18.5/km2 but most were 1.8 to 4.8/km2 (Allen and Shapton, 1942; Bailey, 1971; Bennitt and Nagel, 1937; Burt, 1946; Jones, 1939; Stout and Sonenshine, 1974; Verts, 1967). Density levels reported fluctuated widely between years, possibly in response to outbreaks of diseases (Allen and Shapton, 1942; Brown and Yeager, 1943; Verts, 1967). Skunk populations seemingly have high recruitment and turnover rates because 50 to 71% of striped skunks do not attain an age of 1 year (Bailey, 1971; Casey and Webster, 1975; Verts, 1967). Due to removal of top predators (Crooks and Soulé, 1999; Rogers and Caro, 1998; Soulé et al., 1988), altered land use (Dijak and Thompson, 2000; Donovan et al. 1997; Oehler and Litvaitis, 1996), reduced harvest of skunks (Hamilton and Vangilder, 1992), and perhaps other factors, populations of M. mephitis, have increased in abundance in many regions during recent years (Andren, 1995; Kuehl and Clark, 2002).
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: There is no single well-defined land type that can be classed as skunk range. They live in a variety of habitats: woods, plains, and desert areas but prefer open or forest-edge zones (Walker, 1964). Striped skunks are most abundant on agricultural lands where there is an ample supply of food and cover (Hamilton and Whitaker, 1979). They also adapt to life in urban areas under houses and garages (Rue, 1981; Rosatte, 1986; Larivière et al., 1999). They have been known to inhabit poorly drained marsh areas (Mutch, 1977). Although recorded from 4,200 m skunks usually are found from sea level to 1,800 m (Rue, 1981). Frequently found in suburban areas. Striped skunks are opportunistic omnivorous predatory feeders (Carr, 1974). Their diet varies depending on season and geographic location. In most areas, they feed extensively on insects (usually grasshoppers and beetles) associated with grassland areas (as opposed to forests). However, when insects are not available (early spring, late fall), their diet shifts to small mammals, birds, or vegetation (Verts, 1967).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are vulnerable to a variety of mortality agents such as predation, disease, environmental conditions (e.g., severe winter or drought), chemicals, and anthropogenic activities (Gehrt, 2005; Hansen et al., 2004; Rosatte and Larivière, 2003). Another limiting factor in skunk populations are diseases such as rabies and the resultant control programs (Sikes, 1970). Terrestrial rabies apparently was the case for skunks in Illinois, where population fluctuations are closely tied to rabies outbreaks (Verts, 1967). Striped skunk pelts were considered valuable commodities in the fur trade in the first half of the 20th century, but their value and the number of skunks harvested for fur declined dramatically in the 1950's and 1960's as fashions shifted away from long-haired furs (Verts, 1967). Striped skunks may be harvested in most areas of the United States and Canada. In some states, such as Florida, skunks may be taken only in season, but most states allow harvests year-round (Rosatte, 1987).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Given the ecological and economic importance of this species, there is a need to better understand microhabitat factors that are associated with occurrence of the taxon (Baldwin et al., 2004).

Citation: Reid, F. & Helgen, K. 2008. Mephitis mephitis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 24 October 2014.
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