Pathogen dynamics and morbidity of striped skunks in the absence of rabies

Stanley D. Gehrt, Michael J. Kinsel, Chris Anchor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parasites have the potential to influence the population dynamics of mammalian hosts, either as a single devastating pathogen or as a community effect. Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are typically host to rabies, which often regulates population numbers. We assessed micro- and macroparasite dynamics in striped skunk populations in the absence of rabies, to determine if a single pathogen, or community, was responsible for a majority of skunk deaths. We monitored mortality due to pathogens, and prevalence of pathogens via serology and necropsy, in two populations of striped skunks in northern Illinois during 1998-2004. Transmissible pathogens requiring direct transmission (i.e., canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus) exhibited high annual variability in prevalence. In contrast, those pathogens employing a more indirect, environmental route of transmission (i.e., Leptospira interrogans and Toxoplasma gondii) appeared to exhibit relatively less annual variability in prevalence. Skunks were diagnosed with infections from an average of 4.08 (SD=2.52, n=32) species of endoparasites, with a range of 1-11. Macroparasite prevalence and intensity did not vary among seasons, or sex or age of host. Severe infections occurred with multiple parasite species, and patterns of aggregation suggested some parasite species, or more likely the parasite community, act as a limiting mechanism in skunk populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-347
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of wildlife diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Distemper
  • Leptospira interrogans
  • Mephitis mephitis
  • Morbidity
  • Parasite
  • Striped skunk
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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