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Nocturnal light-specific temporal partitioning facilitates coexistence for a small mesopredator, the eastern spotted skunk

Abstract

Eastern spotted skunks are of conservation concern, where competition and predation are possible causes of their decline. Using camera traps at a food subsidy, we investigated nocturnal temporal overlap of spotted skunks with co-occurring predators. Spotted skunks were more active during dark nights, when their activity overlapped with the largest predator (coyotes), but not with other mesopredators, thus possibly avoiding interspecific competition. Spotted skunk activity shifted during moonlit nights, where overlap with all predators was reduced, suggesting avoidance of both predators and competitors. This implies that both predation and interspecific competition could limit spotted skunk populations, and one mechanism they apply to coexist is nocturnal light-specific temporal partitioning.

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Fig. 1

Data availability

The images used to generate data for this study are available on request to corresponding author.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the many citizen science volunteers for maintaining camera traps over the duration of this study. We also thank the Clemson University Creative Inquiry Program and undergraduate students in the Carnivore Ecology Creative Inquiry course that assisted with tagging species in images. Any use of trade, firm or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. We thank two anonymous reviewers who provided valuable feedback on this manuscript.

Funding

Camera trapping for this study was supported by a large number of in-kind donations by data collectors, as well as a number of small cash donations by private non-profit foundations.

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Correspondence to Courtney J. Marneweck.

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No Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocols were required for this work as it was observational without any direct, physical interaction with animals.

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Marneweck, C.J., Forehand, C.R., Waggy, C.D. et al. Nocturnal light-specific temporal partitioning facilitates coexistence for a small mesopredator, the eastern spotted skunk. J Ethol 40, 193–198 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-021-00743-w

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-021-00743-w

Keywords

  • Carnivore
  • Coexistence
  • Mesopredator
  • Nocturnal
  • Small
  • Temporal partitioning