Melvin S. Moe

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science


Habitat preferences of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) in Brookings County, South Dakota, were determined rom the relationship of nighttime roadside indices to 25 habitat variables of 277, 1-square mile plots. Winter tracking was also conducted. Skunks were collected on the study area in 1972-1972, and contents of 59 stomachs and 63 colons were studied to determine food habits. Indices of prey abundance in different habitat types were obtained from snap-trap surveys. The 25 variables accounted for 14.9 percent of the variation in skunk numbers. The relationships of three of these variables to skunk numbers were significant (P<0.05). The significant variables and the variation accounted for by each were: (a) number of areas of idle grassland, 6.3 percent; (b) number of rockplies, 1.5 percent; and (c) acreage of idle grassland, 1.3 percent. Idle grasslands were the main activity centers of skunks tracked during the winter. Food habits were analyzed for the periods March-April, May-June, July-August, and September-November. Insects were the most frequently found food item in al time periods except March-April, during which mammals occurred more frequently. Mammals made up the largest volume of food in March-April and May-June. Amphibians made up the greatest volume in July-August, while amphibians, mammals, and insects were found in nearly equal volumes in September-November. Bird remains occurred during all time periods. Eggs were found in May-June and July-August. Meadow voles (Microtus spp.), the most frequent mammalian food item during all time periods, were common only in habitat types having heavy residual cover. Idle grassland is an important nestling cover for gamebirds and waterfowl. Since the number of areas of this cover type apparently has a stronger relationship with skunk numbers than its total acreage, grassland nesting cover might best be managed in large, homogeneous blocks. Areas managed in this way would probably support lower skunk densities than more diverse areas containing equal acreages of idle grassland, thus reducing nest predation by skunks. Skunk control programs should be most efficient when centered around idle grassland and rockplies.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Striped skunk


Includes bibliographical references (pages 33-34)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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