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Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 539–552 | Cite as

Spatial ecology of urban striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) in the Northern Great Plains: a framework for future oral rabies vaccination programs

  • Anna L. Schneider
  • Amy T. Gilbert
  • W. David Walter
  • Gregory S. Vandeberg
  • Jason R. BoulangerEmail author
Article

Abstract

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 rabies management planning regarding the placement of oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits and for management of skunk populations more generally. 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 during 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 that male skunks (\( \overline{x} \) = 4.36 km2, SE ± 0.79) had larger home ranges than females (\( \overline{x} \) = 1.79 km2, SE ± 0.24). Female skunk home ranges varied by season with the largest home ranges detected during summer 2017. We found no evidence that use-availability was associated with habitat type or season among female skunks. Female skunks were more likely to be found closer to water; however, we found no association of use with road characteristics 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 studies in urban areas, we caution that ORV baiting programs may not be one-size-fits-all, and a framework for effective bait placement would benefit from studies specific to the management area of interest.

Keywords

Habitat selection Home range Mephitis mephitis North Dakota Rabies Striped skunk Urban 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Financial support was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) and University of North Dakota. Additional financial support was received from North Dakota EPSCoR through NSF grant 11A-135466, North Dakota EPSCoR State funds, and the University of North Dakota Biology Department Academic Programs and Student Awards Committee. We thank N. Walker and L. Jaebker of NWRC who assisted with trapping efforts and the following University of North Dakota students who assisted with telemetry efforts: S. Brewer, S. Demmerly, M. Derby, A. Espinoza, S. Honcharenko, J. Hansen, B. Hurt, A. Keller, J. Leegard, C. Letourneau, M. Monson, A. Nelson, W. Palarski, M. Powell, C. Powers, and N. Vruno. We thank B. Goodwin, S. Ellis-Felege, and B. Darby from University of North Dakota for project guidance. The manuscript benefitted greatly from the valuable comments and suggestions of the anonymous reviewers and Associate Editor. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA
  2. 2.National Wildlife Research Center, United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife ServicesFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological Survey, Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA
  6. 6.University of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA

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