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11/28/2022 5 minute read

What Are The Predators of a Skunk?

The endless network of predation and preying is an inevitable process of the wild. For every animal, there must be another that feeds on it - this is the circle of life. If you're the prey, it's hard to stay alive for long. This is the harsh reality of the…

The endless network of predation and preying is an inevitable process of the wild. For every animal, there must be another that feeds on it – this is the circle of life. If you’re the prey, it’s hard to stay alive for long.

This is the harsh reality of the process we call the “food chain.” For example, a flower sits at the bottom of the chain, then a butterfly consumes a part of it, then it gets eaten by a bird, and the birds ruthlessly get hunted by a fox.

In the case of the skunk, several animals see it as a tasty treat. Let’s find out what animals eat skunks!

What Eats Skunks?

Skunks are small, black-and-white animals with distinctive striped patterns on their backs. Their bodies are elongated and cylindrical, with short legs and long, bushy tails. Skunks are members of the Mephitidae genus, along with stink badgers. They used to be part of the Mustelidae family, including weasels, otters, polecats, moles, and ferrets.

These animals are small, about the size of house cats. So, there’s no wonder why they are prone to be preyed upon.

Common Skunks Predators

Several animal classes in the kingdom Animalia consider skunks a perfect meal for their diet. They’re foraged both by mammals and birds of prey. Under them, several animals that vary in appearance, behavior, size, and species do their best to hunt these small rodents.

Other than the classes mentioned above, skunks are also predated by reptiles like snakes if given the perfect opportunity and circumstance. But now, we’ll learn about the most common natural predators.

Mammals

Mammals are a class of animals that have fur or hair, produce milk for their young, and have a neocortex – the part of the brain responsible for higher-order thinking. In other words, they are warm-blooded creatures that nurse their young.

Mammals are also animals that do not lay eggs. Instead, they give birth to live young. There are approximately 5,490 species of mammals all over the world. Some of these animals hunt skunks for food, while others kill them for other reasons. Predators usually hunt and eat their prey to survive and continue their existence. In some cases, however, animals kill for different reasons, such as competition, territorial disputes, or sport.

The following are some of the most common mammalian predators of skunks:

Wolves

Wolves are the top predators of skunks. They’re large canids that live and hunt in packs. These animals are social creatures that communicate with each other through howling, facial expressions, and body language.

Wolves have a strong sense of smell, which they use to track their prey. They also have excellent eyesight and hearing which enable them to hunt skunks at night. Wolves typically hunt in pairs or small groups. But they work together in large packs when hunting large prey, such as deer, elk, and moose. 

They usually hunt in packs because one skunk is not enough to fill their stomachs. A single wolf can eat up to 20 pounds of meat in one sitting.

A single wolf can consume up to 9 pounds of meat per day. That means a pack of five wolves can eat 45 pounds of meat in one day. When hunting, wolves first surround their prey to prevent it from escaping. Then, they take turns attacking the animal until it’s killed.

Coyotes

Coyotes are canids that are closely related to wolves. They’re smaller than wolves, with pointy noses, long legs, and bushy tails. Coyotes typically have grayish-brown fur, but their color can range from blond to black.

Like wolves, coyotes hunt in packs. But they can also hunt alone or in pairs. These animals are also nocturnal predators with a keen sense of smell, hearing, and eyesight.

Coyotes typically hunt small rodents like raccoons, opossums, and weasels. But they will also kill larger animals, such as deer if given the opportunity. They will even eat skunks!

Coyotes will also scavenge food if they can’t find anything to hunt. They are known to eat human garbage, road kill, and even dead animals on farms.

 Dogs

Dogs are canids that humans domesticated. There are more than 400 breeds of dogs in the world. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny Chihuahua to the massive Great Dane. They generally have strong jaws and sharp teeth that enable a strong bite.

While dogs are generally aggressive animals, some exhibit frightening behaviors because of improper parenting, and some are left in the streets without proper guidance. But even if dogs are trained, some still have the innate behavior to hunt or prey on smaller animals.

We all know that skunks love to roam around suburban neighborhoods to rummage through garbage cans, and that’s where they’re mostly found. That’s also why dogs are one of the most common predators of skunks.

Dogs typically kill skunks for two reasons: to eat them or protect their territory. But in most cases, dogs kill skunks because they’re curious about them and want to play with them.

Other Mammal Predators

While wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs are the top predators of skunks, other mammals will also kill these animals. The following are some of the other mammalian predators of skunks:

  • Bears
  • Foxes
  • Bobcats
  • Mountain lions
  • Cougars

Birds of Prey

Birds belong to the class we call Avians. The term “bird of prey” refers to birds hunting other animals for food. These avians are also called raptors. Unlike mammals, birds do not give birth to live babies. Instead, they lay eggs. These eggs are kept in a nest and are incubated for a couple of weeks, depending on the species.

The major takeaway for birds, though, is that they fly. But, there is one that flies, which is not considered an Avian. These are the bats, which are the only flying mammals.

Birds of prey, or raptors, are predators that hunt and kill other animals for food. These birds use sharp claws and beaks to kill their prey. They also have keen eyesight and can fly at high speeds. Below are the sharpest bird predators:

Eagles

Eagles are large birds of prey with long, broad wings and deeply notched tails. Their plumage is primarily dark brown with white patches on the undersides of their wings.

Eagles are apex predators, meaning they sit at the top of the food chain. These birds typically hunt small mammals, such as rabbits, mice, and lizards. But they will also kill larger animals if given the opportunity. Mostly, they are consumed as carrion, which is dead animals.

Eagles typically hunt during the day, using their exceptional eyesight to spot their prey from a distance. They will then swoop down and grab the animal with their talons.

Hawks

Hawks are medium to large-sized birds of prey with long, pointed wings and short tails. Their plumage is usually a mixture of brown, white, and gray. Like eagles, hawks are also apex predators. They sit at the top of the food chain without falling prey to other animals.

Several hawk species forage on smaller animals. This includes the red-tailed hawks, ospreys, the cooper’s hawk, and the sharp-shinned hawk.

Owls

The owls are nocturnal animals that hunt at night. They have large, round heads, no necks, and facial disks that help to funnel sound towards their ears. Their most notable feature is their eyes. Owls have large, forward-facing eyes that provide them with binocular vision.

Owls are carnivores, meaning they only consume meat or animal matter. They use their excellent vision and hearing to locate their prey.

Some common owl species include the barn owl, great horned owl, and tawny owl.

How Does a Skunk Protect Itself?

While other animals camouflage to hide from predators, skunks are best known for skunk spray- their defense mechanism. The skunk spray is a foul-smelling liquid produced by the skunk’s anal glands.

But, before they release their most kept spray, skunks will first exhibit a little dance. This is when they stomp their feet, hiss, and raise their tails. If the predator does not leave them alone, they will release the skunk odor as a last resort.

The skunk’s spray can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat and cause temporary blindness. It can also be harmful if ingested. For these reasons, many predators will avoid skunks altogether. That is why, when animals identify skunks with their coloration, some of them will choose to back out since their already infamous for the foul-smelling liquid.

More Skunk Facts

Skunk Diet

Skunks are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Their diet consists of small mammals, insects, grubs, grasshoppers, worms, lizards, snakes, frogs, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. They will also consume carrion or dead animals.

Skunks are attracted to the smell of garbage too. That is why you will often see them rummaging through trash cans in search of food.

Skunk Species

There are four main skunk types:

  • Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis)
  • Hooded skunks (Mephitis macroura)
  • Hog-nosed skunks (Conepatus leuconotus)
  • Spotted skunks (Spilogale putorius)

The striped skunk is the most widespread of the two. It is found throughout North America, from Canada to Central America.

The spotted skunk is smaller than the striped skunk and has a more elongated body. It is found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. On the other hand, hooded skunks are easily identifiable because they do not have stripes. They only have a thick line of fur that runs down the center of their face. 

Lastly, American hog-nosed skunks are the largest skunk species. They are a species in Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia in South America.

Skunk Mating Season

Mating season for skunks usually takes place between February and April. During this time, male skunks travel long distances searching for females. After finding a mate, the pair will stay together for about two weeks.

After successful mating, female skunks will give birth to a litter of four to seven baby skunks, called kits, in May or June. Baby skunks are born blind and deaf and are entirely dependent on their mother for the first few weeks of their lives.

Skunk Habitat

Skunks adapt quickly to the environment. They live in various habitats, including the woods, farmland, prairies, forests, and urban areas. They usually live in dens they have dug themselves or taken over from other animals such as foxes or badgers.

Skunks will also den under buildings, rock crevices, or abandoned burrows on the ground. In urban areas, skunks may reside in people’s yards, gardens, or garages. When looking for a suitable habitat, skunks will look for a site that provides them with food and shelter. 

Have a skunk problem?

Skunks can be annoying when they access your yard or other places on your property. Like the raccoon, opossum, and other wildlife that invade your home, they cause damage and pose a disease threat that may be detrimental to your children and the whole family.

For skunk problems, we at AAAC Wildlife Removal will come to you just a call away. Our more than two decades of service in the industry have allowed us to build a good reputation as wildlife control providers. We are known to be reliable, efficient, and effective in dealing with different animals.

AAAC Wildlife Removal will help you determine the type of problem you have and will give the best solution. We also provide skunk proofing and exclusion services to prevent animals from entering your property.

Conclusion

Various wild animals, both avians and mammals, consider skunks a delicious prey species. The mammalian skunk predators include wolves, coyotes, dogs, red foxes, and bobcats, and the birds of prey include eagles, hawks, and great-horned owls.

Being at the bottom, the skunk is an easy target for predators. The process of the food chain is inevitably harsh. However, nature has also equipped them with a means of self-defense and warning ability in the form of their foul-smelling spray. To learn more about skunk predators and their natural predators in the wild, click here: skunk predators.

Contact us if you have concerns about skunks or any other wildlife issues on your property. We provide professional wildlife removal services to ensure the safety and well-being of your property.