Plains spotted skunk not at risk of extinction now or foreseeable future in Oklahoma, beyond
The plains spotted skunk received good news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week. The Service found there is a viable population of the species in its range and that it is not at risk of extinction. The plains spotted skunk is found in 11 states, including in eastern Oklahoma.
According to Jerrod Davis, a wildlife biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma is in the spotted skunk’s furthest western range. Recently, ODWC and Oklahoma State University found them in 17 out of 85 monitored sites.
“Just over 20% of the sites that were monitored, researchers found detections of spotted skunks,” he said.
The plains spotted skunk looks just like its black and white striped cousin, but it is smaller, spotted, and famous for its larger-than-life defensive display. These critters do a handstand before they spray.
The species was petitioned to be listed as threatened due to concerns about habitat fragmentation, availability of water, and predator overload. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, these threats to the species are not significant enough to warrant the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Davis said the conservation efforts in place to protect the plains spotted skunk and its habitat could be the reason why USFWS is no longer considering this species as threatened.
“We don't allow the harvest of spotted skunks in Oklahoma. A lot of those land[s] that those initial detections were made on were either Department Land or US Fish and Wildlife or national parks land. So this is an area that is mostly undisturbed,” he said.
Researchers are now looking into how the skunk got to the point of being considered for the ESA in the first place. Davis said their numbers aren’t as plentiful as they were in the 1940s and 50s, but conservationists are very happy that there’s a viable population of the plains spotted skunk.