PITTSBURG, Kans. — After seeing its population decrease over a number of years, the search is on in Kansas for a rare species of skunk.

“Looking for the species to see if it is decline here, or if it’s still present. Here it’s kind of like chasing a ghost,” said Daniel Benson, PSU Graduate Student.

Since January, Pitt State graduate students Daniel Benson and Jenell de la Peña have been on a mission to locate the spotted skunk.

“About 1950’s the spotted skunk populations across the United States started to decline. The last substantiated sighting for the species was in 2020 out in West Kansas in Gray county. Currently, in our counties of research other than Gray, we have not seen any,” said Benson.

In total, the duo is trying to comb 18 counties across the state of Kansas in hopes of determining if the species is still there and if a conservation plan needs to be put in place.

“It’s likely that it’s an indicator species for grassland health in general. You would see bigger things and bigger problems that would arise,” said Benson.

One of the biggest factors facing the study is finding available locations.

“There is actually not a lot of public land in the state of Kansas so we are kind of asking private land owners out there if they’re interested in having cameras on their land because otherwise we’re trying to get a minimum of 600 locations for this study, and that’s kind of hard to do with the limited amount of land that we have,” said de la Peña.

However, the journey continues thanks to the efforts of Benson, de la Peña, and a wildlife grant from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

“We’re just really excited. We’re really optimistic about finding the skunk. We haven’t found any yet, but we have found a couple of SWAP species which are species of concern in Kansas, and we have found a couple of grey fox and a flying squirrel, so we’re pretty optimistic,” said de la Peña .

Anyone wanting to get involved can contact the team through email at ksspottedskunk@gmail.com.