MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: Natural Predators of Skunks

Date: Wed Nov 1 17:31:48 2000
Posted By: Andrea Bixler, Asst. Professor, Biology
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 971187601.En

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 

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 
--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: 
Wade-Smith, J. and B. J. Verts.  1982.  Mephitis mephitis.  
Mammalian Species No.173.  pp. 1-7

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