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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

Management Implications

Wet meadows in grassland habitats are the principal foraging areas for striped skunks. Small tracts of grassland may expose nesting birds to greater rates of depredation by skunks than would be experienced by birds nesting in large tracts with higher proportions of upland. Our findings suggest that preservation or restoration of large tracts of grassland may help reduce depredation of eggs of upland nesting birds by striped skunks.

Management of grasslands to reduce availability of invertebrate and vertebrate prey that attract foraging skunks likely will be difficult. Because skunks consume a variety of prey species, management to reduce a single prey species or guild likely will only redirect skunk foraging to another species or guild. Even if prey abundance in grasslands could be manipulated, in landscapes where nesting habitat is at a premium because of fragmentation by farming, it may not be possible to prevent skunks from foraging intensively and persistently in the small tracts of grassland that remain. We conclude that the most effective habitat management at the landscape level to reduce skunk depredation on eggs of ground-nesting birds is to provide abundant nesting cover. This will provide opportunity for birds to disperse their nests widely and may reduce the likelihood of nests being discovered by skunks.

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