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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Foods and Foraging of Prairie Striped Skunks
During the Avian Nesting Season


striped skunk
Striped skunk in stubble field.
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.

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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