Social contacts and den sharing among suburban striped skunks during summer, autumn, and winter

Tad C. Theimer, Jesse M. Maestas, David L. Bergman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Determining social contacts among solitary carnivores is difficult given their often nocturnal and secretive nature. We used proximity-sensing radiocollars to quantify social contacts and den sharing among striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) in suburban Flagstaff, Arizona, United States, in summer, autumn, and winter 2012-2013. During June and July, we followed 6 males and 5 females and, in spite of overlapping home ranges, they had few social contacts (range = 0-7), and all were brief, nocturnal encounters. From October through February, we followed 8 males and 9 females and found that patterns of contacts were similar for males and females except for significantly higher diurnal contacts (co-denning) among females in winter. Females varied in denning behavior; 1 female denned continuously in the same location from early November to late January, while at the other extreme 1 female moved among 10 different dens across the same time period. Several females moved to new communal dens in late January, resulting in new combinations of females co-denning. Males visited multiple female dens throughout winter. Overall, our data were consistent with previous studies in documenting overlapping home ranges of both sexes with few social contacts in summer, male intolerance but lack of male territoriality, and divergent social behavior in winter, with females co-denning while males generally denned alone. Our study differed from others in documenting more social interaction and movement during winter, often through nocturnal visits by males to female dens, and a shift in denning associations among females near the end of January.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1272-1281
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 27 2016


  • Mephitis
  • den
  • proximity collars
  • social
  • solitary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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