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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Mammal    Species Name:
Mephitis mephitis
Original name, or synonym is Viverra mephitis Schreber, 1776.

Common Name:
Striped Skunk


Musselshell River, Montana   May 25, 1805
Fort Clatsop, Oregon   February 28, 1806

The polecat

The striped skunk ,or polecat, received just two short entries in the diaries, one each from Lewis and Clark.  This relative of the weasel and otter is so widespread throughout the United States that the only areas where it is not found are in the harshest deserts of the Southwest.  Every member of the Corps, including Lewis' dog, seaman, would have been familiar with the offensive defense tactics of this skunk.  The relative abundance of these animals along the rivers, where they feed on insects, small rodents, and vegetable matter, is likely another reason they were found pretty unremarkable.  Yet Lewis did make an astute observation which showed that striped skunks benefitted from the waste produced by Indians processing the fish they caught. 

For more information about this North American mammal, click here.

Journal Entries:

The first entry by Clark is made just four days after departing St. Charles on the Missouri River.
Cpt. Clark, May 25,...  more>>

References Schreber, Johann Christian Daniel von, Die Saugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen 3(17):pl. 121[1776], text, 3(26):444, 588 (index)[1777]. , Erlangen : in der Expedition des Schreber'schen Saugthier- und des Esper'schen Schmetterlingswerkes, 1777

see following caption

See following caption
striped skunk

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