What Eats a Skunk: Skunk Predator List

skunk near the roadside
Skunks are preyed upon by many animals from both the air and ground, including foxes, owls, eagles, and coyotes.

Skunks are notorious for expelling their signature foul spray as a defense mechanism, but are there creatures in the animal kingdom that aren’t deterred by skunk odor? As a matter of fact, yes.

The skunk population is found across North America in a diverse variety of biomes, from dense forests to rocky deserts. And across all these places, a hungry predator sees skunk as a tasty meal.

No skunk species are exempted from this rule; striped skunks, spotted skunks, hog-nosed skunks, or hooded skunks can all be preyed upon by larger mammals and birds.

Let’s learn more about the land and air-dwelling predators that target skunks for food.

Does a skunk have any predators?

Skunks may be smelly, but they have a relatively extensive list of predators.

The defining aspect of skunks is their foul-smelling odor. Contrary to popular belief, skunks don’t directly resort to expelling their skunk musk whenever they feel vulnerable.

They can only spray six times a day, so they use this ability quite sparingly.

Instead, they may stomp their feet, growl, or raise their tail first. But if that doesn’t work and a hungry carnivore is making its appearance, they’ll not hesitate to spray their musk from their anal glands.

In some cases, releasing their spray can effectively ward off predators of skunks. The predator may be turned off by the scent and look for other small mammals to hunt.

However, there are times when this self-defense mechanism won’t be enough to do the trick. This is often the case when the predator is starving and has no other choice or when the attack is quick enough that the skunk has no time to release its spray.

Some predators also lack a keen sense of smell, rendering the skunk’s strongest defense mechanism useless.

baby skunk pawing through the grass

Aerial predators

Aerial predators that feed on skunks typically have extremely sharp eyesight. This makes them capable of seeing prey such as rodents from miles away.

And with most skunks growing to the size of an average housecat, it’s not difficult for these birds to lock on to their target from up in the air or perched on a tree branch.

Like the skunk, most aerial predators are also nocturnal creatures that prowl around at night, looking for smaller mammals to eat.

In conjunction with their sharp claws to deal a quick, killing blow, these features make skunks a suitable meal for these birds.

Two primary predators of the sky may catch and kill skunks. They are the red-tailed eagle and the great-horned owl.

  • Red-tailed hawk: Found in the far northern regions of Canada and Alaska, this carnivorous bird can swoop in to strike a skunk before it has time to spray.
  • Great-horned owl: Unlike hawks or eagles, this owl is stealthy and quiet in its approach. They grab and clutch the skunk with its sharp talons, killing it quickly. They also aren’t affected by skunk spray.
  • Eagles: Capable of seeing prey from three miles away, eagles can spot, catch, and crush a skunk with their claws with relative ease.
skunk with baby kit skunks

Ground predators

Carnivores and some omnivores enjoy eating skunks as part of their diet. However, due to their pungent smell, skunks are often far down the list regarding food preferences for most wild animals.

Many ground predators prefer catching other smaller mammals like rabbits and mice.

Usually, only when there are limited options do these creatures resort to killing skunks for food.

  • Wild cats: Bobcats and mountain lions use their razor-sharp teeth to tear through a skunk’s flesh, causing it to bleed.
  • Dogs: Large breeds of domestic dogs can bite sensitive regions of the skunk and kill it before it reacts.
  • Red foxes: Aside from eating raccoons and rabbits, red foxes may prey on skunks with their keen sense of hearing and smell.
  • Cougars: These large animals are both quick and powerful, boasting more than enough biting force to wound and kill a skunk.
  • Coyotes: Coyotes are fast, medium-sized animals that reside in mountainous regions. They can fatally bite a skunk before they get a chance to react.
  • Wolves: Like foxes, wolves can detect a skunk’s natural scent miles away. They’re also excellent hunters.

Joshua Munoz

Most people’s first instinct when they see a wild skunk is to back away, but not Joshua. He holds a near-obsessive fascination with skunks and their behavior. Although Joshua has never been closer than five feet to a skunk, he has spent countless hours researching them. He knows almost everything there is to know about skunks, from their diet and habitat, to how to humanely trap them. Joshua’s interest in skunks is rooted in his love of animal biology. He fondly remembers topping his finals in biology class while in university. Now, as a writer, he fuses passion and expertise into one by sharing his knowledge about the animal kingdom with others.

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