Skunks are ground mammals mostly seen in the Americas. They belong to the Order Carnivora and are closely related to other mammals like the weasels, polecats and badgers. Skunks possess a set of anal sweat glands that contain a liquid these animals use to defend themselves from predators. When let out, it produces a pungent odor that deters any potential predator.
Nevertheless, skunks can still fall prey to several would-be predators if they are not careful. Thought they can ward off certain animals, some are more successful in overcoming the smelly skunk.
List of Skunk Predators
1. Great Horned Owl
If there is one true predator of skunks, it’s the Great Horned Owl. Also known as the Tiger owls, these birds belong to the order Strigiformes and are nocturnal, solitary birds. They are primarily carnivorous and feed off of insects and small mammals, including the skunk.
The Great Horned Owl, much like all other owls, are expert hunters in whichever environment they find themselves in. Their natural colors lend itself well as a natural camouflage, making these birds adept at stealthy hunting patterns. They take advantage of the dark and mostly hunt during the night.
Having superior eyesight, these owls can pick out unsuspecting prey from the ground. When it has chosen its prey, they swoop down with precise flying patterns owing to their broad wings. To catch their prey, these owls use their sharp talons to grip their prey and crush their bodies. They proceed to dismember their prey before bringing these pieces to their nests.
Skunks are commonly defenseless against great horned owls since they do not see them coming. Skunks are only able to protect themselves with their sprays if they can anticipate the predators. With the high ground advantage lost to them, the skunks are at the mercy of the Great Horned Owl.
2. Red Fox
Another predator of skunks is the red fox. The red fox is a popular fauna across the Northern Hemisphere and is considered the most important of the fur-bearing animals for the past centuries.
They are omnivores having a diet comprised of small rodents and other mammals as well as a few other species of plants. They are natural predators for ground-dwelling birds such as chicken and turkeys. For that reason, foxes may be frequently found stalking in and around poultry farms.
Red foxes are exemplary predators, considered as the apex among other species of fox. They have a heightened sense of smell and hearing that are attuned to hunting their prey. They use sound to identify the exact location of their prey, then pounce on them using their superior agility, and catch their prey using their sharp teeth.
Red foxes occasionally choose to hunt skunks if there are no easier prey to hunt. In every respect, the red fox is a superior animal physically with its agility and hunting sense in comparison. However, the skunk’s defensive pungent spray is more than enough to deter any would-be fox attempting to kill the skunk.
3. Red-tailed Hawk
The red-tailed hawk are predatory birds belonging to the order Accipitriformes. They are the most common type of hawk known within North America and there are over 14 different subspecies of this bird.
Being primarily predatory birds, the red-tailed hawk is a carnivore through and through. This bird is not a picky eater and has been found to prey on any small animal for potential food. Rodents and squirrels are its favorite meal as the hawk prefers to hunt ground animals based on their hunting prowess.
Red-tailed hawks are natural hunters and all land-dwelling mammals are fair game. These birds can spot unsuspecting prey from high above a perch and then swoop down with amazing speed. Possessing large powerful talons, they grip their victims with tremendous force incapacitating them for the hawk to eat.
Skunks who come under the predatory eyes of this hawk are defenseless to say the least. This predator of skunks will see them even from a mile away. The hawks can hunt them with such swift speed their defense mechanism cannot respond in time. Skunks, like with the Great Horned Owl, are at the mercy of hawks.
Coyotes are an abundant species native only to North America. Variably referred to as the American jackal, these canines bear several similarities to wolves and true jackals. These are carnivorous wild animals that prey upon smaller mammals for their food.
Coyotes are prominent predators owing to their high-class physical make-up and capacity for teamwork. Coyotes are extremely fast, able to move at a speed of 40 miles per hour whenever necessary. Apart from hunting alone, they are capable of hunting larger prey when working in groups. Taking down deers and elks are not free from the oppressive hunting of coyotes.
Skunks will have some amount of success in discouraging coyotes to attack. Their pungent spray is equally unpleasant to the coyote-like other the predators of its kin. However, this is not a problem for a persistent coyote. With its speed and agility, a coyote that has caught up with the skunk can beat it with a bite of its powerful jaws.
Our last animal in our list of skunk predators are cougars, which are large cats common the Canada and in South America. They are good examples of ambush predators, who lie in wait for an unsuspecting prey for them to pounce upon. They are carnivores that rely heavily on a meat-based diet to survive.
Like the animals before it, cougars are physical specimens in and of themselves. They are swift and can leap high owing to their large hind legs. They have powerful jaws with which they can perform well-placed neck bite spelling instantly killing its prey.
Cougars are more than capable of subduing the skunk even if skunks are their infrequent prey. But, skunks are hardy animals confident in dissuading cougars with their signature spray. When confronted, skunks assume an intimidating posture with its tail lifted high threatening even the deadly cougar. If the cougar persists however, it may mean certain death for the skunk.
I hope that this article on skunk predators was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!