Spatial organization and genetic structure of striped skunk populations on the southern High Plains, Texas
Hansen, Leslie Ann
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I examined the population characteristics, genetic stmcture, and male spatial organization of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) on the Southem High Plains, Texas, during 1994 and 1995. Land use on the study area was primarily agricultural, with crops including grain sorghum, cotton, winter wheat, and com. Striped skunks were trapped and radiotracked during March - July (1994) or August (1995) on 4 12.8 km" plots. Distances between plot centers ranged from 17.6 to 61.6 km. Annual survival rates of adult striped skunks were 0.40 in 1994 and 0.48 in 1995. The primary identified causes of mortality were human-caused trauma (shooting and vehicle collisions). Twenty-two percent of male striped skunks moved > 3 km from their initial capture site. The average home range size of male striped skunks on each plot, calculated using 95% contours of the adaptive kernel method, ranged from 498 to 1668 ha. I correlated male home range sizes calculated using the minimum convex polygon method and the 95%, 80%, and 50% contours of the adaptive kernel methods with male population size, female population size, total population size, and sex ratio. The 50% adaptive kernel contour was not significantly correlated with any of these measures. The other measures of home range size were most significantly correlated with total population size. Use areas of male striped skunks overlapped up to 56%, and overlap areas did not decrease as population size decreased. High levels of genetic similarity were not correlated with extensive home range overlap. The tolerance of male striped skunks for other males may partly stem from the fact that skunks may share a readily renewable food resource with conspecifics at little cost to themselves. There was no evidence of geographic genetic stmcturing in male striped skunks at the scale of this study.