Efficacy of attractants for detecting eastern spotted skunks: an experimental approach

Alexandra C. Avrin, Charles E. Pekins, Jinelle H. Sperry, Patrick J. Wolff, Maximilian L. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Estimates of abundance and occupancy are essential for wildlife management, particularly for species of conservation concern such as eastern spotted skunks Spilogale putorius. Most studies of eastern spotted skunks rely on limited evidence for best monitoring practices, and while many studies use attractants to increase detections, previous studies have not tested attractants against a control of no attractant to determine their effectiveness. We tested two common attractants (sardines and fatty acid tablets) and one uncommon attractant (wild boar carcasses) against a control of no attractant to determine if any attractant increased detections of eastern spotted skunks or changed their temporal activity. Based on our model, sardines and wild boar carcasses improved detections by three and eight times that of the control, respectively. Further, for every 100 trap nights, we detected eastern spotted skunks 10.67 times with wild boar carcasses, 1.02 times with sardines, 0.53 times with fatty acid tablets and 0.44 times with no attractant. Wild boar carcasses also substantially decreased latency to detection, with skunks detected two times faster than at other attractants and almost three times faster than at the control. Eastern spotted skunks were most active in the early morning before sunrise, and their temporal activity did not vary significantly by attractant. This study is the first to use an experimental framework to test attractants for eastern spotted skunks, and our results showed that choice of attractant matters. Large animal carcasses, although rarely used, may be most effective for detecting eastern spotted skunks, while fatty acid tablets were no different than the control, and we recommend against their use in future studies. Monitoring plans should incorporate our results as increasing detections is essential to understanding the abundance, range and demographics of eastern spotted skunks.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberwlb.00880
JournalWildlife Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Spilogale putorius
  • bait
  • camera trap
  • carrion
  • detection
  • experimental framework
  • fatty acid tablet
  • large animal carcass
  • lure
  • sardines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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