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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Do skunk's scatter-hoard surplus food?

You know how the jackals and hyenas show up after the lion finishes its meal? Well, it looks like wood rats and deer mice here clean-up after mini-carnivores like Stinkarella, the spotted skunk.

This week the climbing skunk tackled and ate two gopher baits (Pics 1 and 2). The 2nd gopher (a big one) was gone in 45 minutes. The skunk then spent about 30 minutes coming and going, digging holes (pic 3), and checking out the cam (pic 4).

I didn’t give the digging much thought until I looked at the next 8 photos, which were triggered by 2 wood rats and a mouse (pics 5). The mouse was there first—an hour after the skunk’s exit. The rat made its appearance 3 hours later. It looks like the wood rat was digging where the skunk had dug. Stinkarella returned to the scene 25 minutes after the last wood rat photo (at 5:15AM), and stuck his head in the hole.

Hypothesis: the skunk "scatter hoards" its leftovers, just as a squirrel buries nuts. (Next time I’ll dig around to see what I find). Other animals "larder-hoard"--store a lot of food in one place. I haven't found any reference in the scientific literature about spotted skunks hoarding food. I admit the evidence is circumstantial, but maybe we're onto something.

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