Answers from the Wild Side: Do Vineyard skunks look different?

And more important, can they swim?

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A Vineyard skunk named Lance. – Luanne Johnson

The great outdoors can produce baffling mysteries. MVTimes Wild Side columnist Matt Pelikan tries his best to solve them. Got a question for the Wild Side? Send it to onisland@mvtimes.com.

Hi Matt,

Hope you’re having a good summer. I’m curious about Island skunks. Do we have different species here, or do their markings vary within a single species? Have they always been on the Island, or were they introduced? Can they swim? Does anyone know their population? There certainly seems to be no shortage!

Thanks,

DZ

Hi DZ.

It’s the same species as on the mainland, but markings vary somewhat among individuals. They were probably here originally, but were extirpated at some point before being reintroduced a few decades ago. They swim fairly well. Luanne Johnson recently completed her Ph.D. dissertation on skunks (mainly on their foraging habits); I don’t know if she came up with a population estimate for the Island, but there are surely many hundreds here. As with a lot of mammals, the size of their population is cyclical: Assuming there’s enough food, the numbers increase for a few years before usually being knocked back by disease (often a distemper-like illness).