Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Foods and Foraging of Prairie Striped Skunks
During the Avian Nesting Season
Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are regarded as important nest predators
of upland nesting ducks in the prairie pothole region of the northern Great
Plains (Sargeant and Arnold 1984), a primary breeding area for North American
ducks and numerous other grassland nesting birds (Stewart 1975, Bellrose 1980,
Batt et al. 1989, Johnson 1995). Skunks are common to abundant in this region
(Sargeant et al. 1993). Verts (1967) reported food habits studies that revealed
insects were the primary prey of skunks, with bird eggs only occasionally being
consumed. However, these findings were based on studies that did not include
the prairie pothole region. Knowledge of food habits of prairie skunks is needed
to understand habitat selection by skunks in this region. Such information has
potential for use by managers in developing habitat management strategies to
mediate skunk impacts on populations of grassland nesting birds.
|Striped skunk in stubble field.
We studied food habits of a population of adult radiocollared striped skunks
in east-central North Dakota during spring and early summer. Our purpose was
to contrast annual and seasonal variation in occurrence of major food groups
in skunk diets during the principal period of nesting by ducks and other birds.
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