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Keywords:

  • carnivore;
  • eastern spotted skunk;
  • habitat selection;
  • home range size;
  • Ouachita Mountains;
  • Picoides borealis;
  • red-cockaded woodpecker;
  • Spilogale putorius.

ABSTRACT  Since the 1940s, eastern spotted skunks (Spilogale putorius) have declined dramatically throughout the Midwest. One hypothesis for the decline is the loss of suitable habitat, although little is known about the ecological requirements of this species. To elucidate seasonal home range and habitat selection by eastern spotted skunks, we conducted telemetry-based field work in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas, USA. During 2 years of field work, we collected day- and nighttime radiolocations for 33 eastern spotted skunks. We used kernel-based utilization distributions, volume of intersection indices, and weighted compositional analysis to evaluate seasonal home range dynamics and habitat selection. Although we found moderate adult male site fidelity, there were large seasonal differences in home range size, with ranges of between 76 ha and 175 ha (± 22–62 SE) during summer, fall, and winter, and home ranges of 866 ha (± 235 SE) during spring. Male home range increases in the spring were likely caused by questing behavior in search of reproductive females. Females maintained home ranges of 54 ha to 135 ha (± 7–30 SE) and moderate site fidelity during all seasons. During each season, we observed selection of young shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) and hardwood stands over other available cover types, likely due to a preference for a dense, complex understory and a closed canopy overstory to reduce predation risk. Most habitats in the study region were managed for an herbaceous understory and an older, more open canopy, in part to benefit red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) populations. Thus, if simultaneous management for these 2 vertebrates is a goal, a balance of early and late successional habitat should be reached.