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12/19/17- The Weasel Skunk

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

Everybody is familiar with the striped skunk that inhabits most of the southern United States. More affectionately known as the “polecat”, the striped skunk can be easily identified by its black and white body and foul odor. But did you know that there is a second species of skunk in this area? Spilogale putorius or Eastern Spotted Skunk is a rare species of skunk that researchers know little to nothing about and that is why help is wanted!

So far, we know that the spotted skunk is much smaller than its counterpart, the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). It is about the size of a squirrel weighing in at a whopping 1.5 lb. Most females weigh only a pound, contributing to the nicknames “tree skunk” and “weasel skunk”. The spotted skunk is also a much more slender version of skunk. The spotted skunk got its name from the irregular spots that can be found along its side and legs. Its tail has white underneath and a white tip (another distinguishing characteristic from the striped skunk). The characteristic that stands out the most is the white triangular patch of fur above the nose. This characteristic is found on ALL spotted skunks. Spotted skunks can be found in areas with pines and hardwoods, as well as pastures and roadsides. They prefer extended vegetative cover where they can hide and forage for food. In the summer months, the spotted skunk eats insects such as grasshoppers and beetles. During the winter, it will eat mice and young rabbits. When threatened, this species will stand upside down on its hands, flashing its black and white coloration. This tricks predators into thinking the skunk is much bigger than it really is. If this little skit does not warn off the predator, the “tree skunk” then uses those good ole anal glands to deter the predator.  Other than the basic ecology of this species, scientists really don’t know much about this species. The spotted skunk experienced great population declines in the 1940s which is contributed to habitat loss, pesticide and possible overharvesting, but the exact reasons are unknown. Recently, a group of students from West Georgia have begun research on a localized population in the Talladega National Forest in Alabama. The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries are asking for hunters and other outdoorsman to report any and all sightings (including roadkill and accidental trappings) to compile data and research on this amazing little species.

So if you are out and about and happen to spot what looks like a very small skunk, chances are you have encountered a spotted skunk! Take a picture if you can or simply report your coordinates to the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. Harvesting of this species is forbidden due to their conservation status. Save the weasel skunk!

By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as a member of the TrueSouth team contributing wildlife blog articles!

My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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