Camera angle and photographic identification of individual striped skunks

Tad C. Theimer, Dylan T. Ray, David L. Bergman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We tested whether striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, could be recognized based on variation in pelage patterns and whether camera position influenced that outcome. We presented 11 volunteers with 2 sets of 24 photographs taken between 1 January and 15 February 2015, one with animals photographed from the side, the other from above. Each set of 24 photographs included 9 pairs, with each pair representing 2 different images of the same animal. Volunteers scored twice as many correct matches and 4-fold fewer false matches when photographs were taken from above. Regardless of camera position, the total number of unique skunks in each set was underestimated (83% of total from above, 75% from side), likely because some skunks had very similar pelage patterns. Our results indicate that variation in nose stripe, back stripe, dorsal and ventral tail pattern, and shape of tail can be used to recognize individual striped skunks but similarity in those characteristics among some individuals may cause total number of unique individuals to be underestimated regardless of camera orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-150
Number of pages5
JournalWildlife Society Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Mephitis mephitis
  • camera trap
  • individual identification
  • striped skunk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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