First documentation of scent-marking behaviors in striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis)

Kathrina Jackson, Christopher C. Wilmers, Heiko U. Wittmer, Maximilian L. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Communication behaviors play a critical role in both an individual’s fitness as well as the viability of populations. Solitary animals use chemical communication (i.e., scent marking) to locate mates and defend their territory to increase their own fitness. Previous research has suggested that striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) do not perform scent-marking behaviors, despite being best known for using odor as chemical defense. We used video camera traps to document behaviors exhibited by striped skunks at a remote site in coastal California between January 2012 and April 2015. Our camera traps captured a total of 71 visits by striped skunks, the majority of which (73%) included a striped skunk exhibiting scent-marking behaviors. Overall, we documented 8 different scent-marking behaviors. The most frequent behaviors we documented were cheek rubbing (45.1%), investigating (40.8%), and claw marking (35.2%). The behaviors exhibited for the longest durations on average were grooming (x¯ = 34. 4 s) and investigating (x¯ = 21.2 s). Although previous research suggested that striped skunks do not scent mark, we documented that at least some populations do and our findings suggest that certain sites are used for communication via scent marking. Our study further highlights how camera traps allow researchers to discover previously undocumented animal behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-404
Number of pages6
JournalMammal Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Camera trap
  • Chemical communication
  • Communication
  • Mephitis mephitis
  • Novel behaviors
  • Scent marking
  • Striped skunk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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