The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is asking for the public’s help in gathering information on the eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius). Anyone who sees the unique species is asked to report the sighting to LDWF. The sightings can be from roadkill, game cameras or inadvertent catch from fur trapping, according to the agency’s press release.
“At one time, the eastern spotted skunk was much more abundant than it is now,” said LDWF biologist Jennifer Hogue-Manuel. “We’re hoping that the public can assist us by reporting any sightings of this species.’’
According to LDWF, there hasn’t been a confirmed sighting of this species in more than 30 years.
The eastern spotted skunk is about the size of a large eastern gray squirrel, and physical appearance is characterized by an upside down triangle pattern on its forehead and narrow white stripe beneath its eyes. Four distinct stripes run down its back which are broken in pattern, giving a "spotted" appearance. Broken stripes also run diagonal across the hip with a few white spots on its rear end. The tail is bushy and comparable, albeit smaller, to that of the more common striped skunks.
They are much more active than any other type of skunk, while also sharing in most of the same predators as their striped cousins, which include bobcats, hawks, and others. The great horned owl is considered a primary predator of skunks, with the animal's odor not seeming to deter depredation. Up to eight skunks may share an underground den in the winter.
The Eastern Spotted species is unique as it can also climb and take shelter in trees, and has been known to use home attics for den locations.
The animal prefers forest edges and upland prairie grasslands, especially where rock outcrops and shrub clumps are present. It relies heavily on riparian corridors where woody shrubs and woodland edges are present. They appear partial to open prairies, brushy areas, and cultivated land, and require some form of cover such as brushy field border, fence row, or heavily vegetated gully between a den and foraging areas. In areas like the Ozark Highlands of Missouri, they are found more commonly in woodland habitats with extensive leaf litter and downed logs.
While Eastern Spotted Skunks remain common in areas like Southern Florida, they are considered rare and endangered throughout almost all of their historic range.
The species was common in areas of the Midwest, like Minnesota and Wisconsin prior to dramatic decline in throughout the early 20th century.
The spotted skunk is also known as a civet cat or “polecat”, but this name is misleading and incorrect as spotted skunks are not closely related to the true civets of the Old World; or even to cats for that matter.
Out of the four skunk species, S. putorius is considered the most active. They are also thought to be more agile and vigilant than the other skunks dwelling in North America. The species is also known for its trademark “handstand defense” performance, which is usually executed before spraying a potential predator. When threatened, the skunk will run at the opponent, stop, and raise its back half using the front legs, as in the position of a handstand. With its back at the opponent, it will aim toward the opponent and twitch the tail and hiss. The musk from Spilogale putorius is considered stronger than the musk of striped skunks.
Another trademark characteristic of the spotted skunk is the animal’s egg-opening practice.
The skunk will straddle the egg with the front legs and bite the egg until it opens. If this does not work, the skunk, using the front legs will push the egg back and kick it with one hind leg - according to research.
To report sightings and for more information, contact Jennifer Hogue-Manuel at 337-735-8674 or e-mail sighting information to email@example.com. You can also upload observations to the Eastern Spotted Skunk Project at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/eastern-spotted-skunk.