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The plains spotted skunk is not at risk of extinction, says the Fish and Wildlife Service

Plains spotted skunks are smaller and differently patterned than their more well-known relatives.
Blake Sasse
/
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Plains spotted skunks are smaller and differently patterned than their more well-known relatives.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has decided to not list the plains spotted skunk under the Endangered Species Act. Federal officials say the animal is not under any immediate or future threats.

The plains spotted skunk is found in 11 states, including Wyoming. It’s smaller than its more well-known black-and-white-striped relative, and is famous for doing a handstand before spraying.

Vona Kuczynska, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the federal government was petitioned over a decade ago to list the skunk, mostly due to concerns over trapping and habitat loss.

“We looked at climate change. We've considered disease. From when we assessed those threats, we didn't think that there were still any significant threats coming in [for] the immediate future, or even in a few decades,” she said.

Several states celebrated the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision. Kuczynska said the skunk remains rare, and any sightings should be reported to local game and fish departments.

“As long as you stay away from them, and you don't approach them really close, they're not going to harm you in any way,” she said. “They are part of our food web. They eat a lot of insects. So they're a positive influence in our systems.”

Plains spotted skunks are nocturnal and most often found in tall grass prairies, woodlands and farmland.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.

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