|MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology|
It is thought that most mammalian predators will eat a skunk if they are hungry enough. This is based on evidence such as stomach-contents analysis (when you collect a dead animal, you open up its stomach to see what its last meal consisted of). There are few observations of predators capturing and consuming skunks, so we don't know for sure whether the skunk was already dead (e.g., roadkill) when consumed. This could be an important factor in the solution to your problem, because you presumably want predators that will take out live skunks! With that caveat, however, there is some evidence (stomach contents or observations) that the following will at least sometimes eat skunks: cougars, coyotes, badgers, foxes and bobcats (Wade-Smith and Verts 1982). A better bet for you are avian predators like hawks, eagles or great horned owls (Wade-Smith and Verts 1982). Some have even said that skunks form a major part of the diet of great horned owls. Since most birds can't smell, it's not surprising that they would be more interested in a diet of skunk than would mammals, which typically depend heavily on their noses. Great horned owls can still be injured by skunk spray, however: they can be blinded if the spray gets in their eyes. Depending on where you live, many of these birds are threatened or endangered, so smuggling them into your neighborhood to combat the skunk overpopulation would be frowned upon! Perhaps a few other solutions (less labor-intensive and more legal) would work for you: --keep kids and pets inside (and dogs leashed when they're outside) at night to prevent interactions between them and skunks, since the outcome of such interaction is likely to be in the skunk's favor; if a "skunking" occurs, use hydrogen peroxide and soap in water to wash away the odor --keep pet food and garbage inside or well-closed-up so that skunks can't get into it; they'll eat anything, but cat chow and leftover cheescake would be especially appealing because of the high protein, fat and sugar contents! --you could also hire a nuisance animal control agent to trap skunks if there are a few particular ones that are bothersome (like if they're living under your garage or something), but trying to trap the whole population would be a bit much --you could bide your time and wait 'til the numbers go back down, since skunk populations tend to increase and decrease due to severe weather conditions or disease epizootics; while you're biding your time, you could try to understand the appeal that these animals have for some people (especially people with certain olfactory conditions which render them unable to distiguish the smell of skunk from the smell of lemonade; Schuster 1992) Good luck! Literature Cited Schuster, L. 1992. The spray that inspires. National Wildlife 30: 34-39. Wade-Smith, J. and B. J. Verts. 1982. Mephitis mephitis. Mammalian Species No.173. pp. 1-7
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Environment & Ecology.