Data to accompany the paper ‘Redundancy analysis reveals complex den use patterns by eastern spotted skunks, a conditional specialist’, Ecosphere
Wildlife managers tasked with understanding habitat and resource selection at the population level attempt to characterize patterns in nature that aid and inform conservation. Resource selection functions (RSF), such as discrete choice analyses, are the standard convention to characterize the effects of habitat attributes on resource selection patterns. RSF are invaluable tools for in wildlife management and conservation and have proven successful in numerous studies. However, the analysis of small datasets using RSF becomes problematic when attempting to account for for complex sources of variation and inclusion of factors such as weather or intrinsic variation on target species’ response may produce models with poor predictive ability. We compared the application of generalized linear mixed modeling (GLMM) and redundancy analysis (RDA) on Appalachian spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius putorius) den selection data at four study sites within national forest and surrounding private lands in the Appalachian Mountains of western Virginia and northeastern West Virginia. We assessed the need for the inclusion of alternative sources of variation, (i.e., weather conditions and individual intrinsic variation) in addition to standard habitat attributes to better identify sources of variation in den selection. The RDA elucidated complex and opposing relationships whereby den type use was based on reproductive status or weather condition, that were not evident in the GLMM model that relied solely on habitat measures. Our results demonstrate the importance of examining resource selection data using multivariate techniques in addition to conventional discrete choice analyses to better understand intricate habitat–species relationships, especially for small data sets. Further, from our analyses, we propose that spotted skunks are neither a true generalist nor specialist species. We introduce and define the term ‘conditional specialist’ to represent a species that is conditionally selective of a given resource in response to one or more current environmental or intrinsic conditions.