Multi-locus DNA metabarcoding of western spotted skunk diet in the McKenzie River Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest from 2017-2019

  • Creator(s): Marie I Tosa, Taal Levi, Damon Lesmeister
  • PI(s): Taal Levi, Damon Lesmeister
  • Originator(s): Marie I Tosa
  • Other researcher(s):
  • Dates of data collection: Aug 3 2017 - Jan 25 2019
  • Data collection status: Study collection is completed and no new collection is planned
  • Data access: Online
  • DOI:
  • Last update: Dec 7 2022 (Version 2)
<Citation>     <Acknowledgement>     <Disclaimer>    
Tosa, M.; Levi, T.; Lesmeister, D. 2022. Multi-locus DNA metabarcoding of western spotted skunk diet in the McKenzie River Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest from 2017-2019. Long-Term Ecological Research. Forest Science Data Bank, Corvallis, OR. [Database]. Available: Accessed 2023-12-11.
Data were provided by the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest research program, funded by the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research Program (DEB 2025755), US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, and Oregon State University.
While substantial efforts are made to ensure the accuracy of data and documentation, complete accuracy of data sets cannot be guaranteed. All data are made available "as is". The Andrews LTER shall not be liable for damages resulting from any use or misinterpretation of data sets.
There are increasing concerns about the declining population trends of small mammalian carnivores around the world. Their conservation and management is often challenging due to limited knowledge about their ecology and natural history. To address one of these deficiencies for western spotted skunks (Spilogale gracilis), we investigated their diet in the Oregon Cascades of the Pacific Northwest during 2017 –2019. We collected 130 spotted skunk scats opportunistically and with detection dog teams and identified prey items using DNA metabarcoding and mechanical sorting. Western spotted skunk diet consisted of invertebrates such as wasps, millipedes, and gastropods, vertebrates such as small mammals, amphibians, and birds, and plants such as Gaultheria, Rubus, and Vaccinium. Diet also consisted of items such as black-tailed deer that were likely scavenged. Comparison in diet by season revealed that spotted skunks consumed more insects during the dry season (June –August), particularly wasps (75% of scats in the dry season), and marginally more mammals during the wet season(September –May). We observed similar diet in areas with no record of human disturbance and areas with a history of logging at most spatial scales, but scats collected in areas with older forest within a skunk’s home range (1 km buffer) were more likely to contain insects. Western spotted skunks provide food web linkages between aquatic, terrestrial, and arboreal systems and serve functional roles of seed dispersal and scavenging. Due to their diverse diet and prey-switching, western spotted skunks may dampen the effects of irruptions of prey, such as wasps during dry springs and summers. By studying the natural history of western spotted skunks in the Pacific Northwest forests while they are still abundant, we provide key information necessary to achieve the conservation goal of keeping this common species common.

Study Description Study Site Map Taxonomic Hierarchy Download Study Location Information: (CSV)
Ecological Metadata Language: (EML)
1Prey information for each scat (Aug 3 2017 - Jan 25 2019)METADATADATA
within scat information; results from DNA metabarcoding and manual sorting
2Summarized information about prey composition for each scat (Aug 3 2017 - Jan 25 2019)METADATADATA
scat-level information summarizing results from DNA metabarcoding and manual sorting by taxonomic class
3Location information for each scat (Aug 3 2017 - Jan 25 2019)METADATADATA
associated environmental attributes of the location where the scat was collected

 Study area map with 3 x 3 km grid cells - Scat detection map identifying 3 x 3 km grid cell numbers within the study area of Blue River Watershed

 Forest-wide bird survey at 183 sample sites the Andrews Experimental Forest from 2009 to present (SA024)
 Air temperature at core phenology sites and additional bird monitoring sites in the Andrews Experimental Forest, 2009 to present (MS045)