What Eats Skunks? (6 Top Predators)

Despite having a relatively strong defensive mechanism, skunks are often hunted by animals that can take it by surprise like eagles, hawks, owls, as well as other stealthy predators like wolves, coyotes, wolves, and even dogs.

what eats skunks

When a skunk feels endangered, it has one specific tactic that many predators are turned away by – its stinking gases. They’ll enter a very defensive posture first, and if there’s no other chance, they’ll release their spray. And when that happens, even the most proficient hunters are turned away.

That’s why catching skunks requires a great deal of stealth, precision, and patience. And only a handful of the most skilled and stealthy predators are capable of doing that. One area of weakness for skunks is attacks from the sky. They aren’t able to anticipate them, so they’re not able to release their gases in time.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the main predators of skunks.

6 Animals that Eat Skunks

These are some of the most common animals that are able to catch skunks.

1. Eagles

As we’ve already mentioned, skunks are very vulnerable to attacks from the sky. Because they’re not able to see the air up above them, they’re not able to release their fluids in time, especially if they get surprised. 

And eagles are one of the best predators from the sky. In fact, they’re at the top, or near the top of the food chain, meaning they don’t have many natural predators themselves. And they have very good eyesight. They’re able to see a skunk or a rabbit from up to three miles away, which is an impressive feat.

Their near-perfect eyesight enables them to catch a skunk off-guard and surprise it, giving it no time to release its stinky spray. An eagle will then either kill the skunk on the spot or carry it to another place until the skunk wears out and becomes an even easier prey to eat for the eagle.

2. Hawks

Similarly to eagles, hawks are perfectly capable of spotting their prey from miles away. Of course, the smaller the prey, the closer they need to be to spot it, so it really depends on the size of the skunk. A skunk may grow to up to 19 inches in size, which is similar to a house cat, allowing the hawk to spot it from one mile away or even more.

A hawk will naturally look for other types of prey first, such as rabbits or other mammals and rodents that won’t cause them such problems as skunks do. However, if they’re able to strike swiftly and quickly, the skunk will have no chance of releasing its smells, giving the hawk a good chance of catching it and killing it with a single blow.

Normally, hawks will go for smaller skunks which are easier to kill with just a single blow. Although if they go for larger skunks, they might need to plan their attack more carefully in order not to trigger their defense mechanism.

3. Owls

Owls are night predators. They’re constantly on the lookout for smaller mammals and rodents, using their strong eyesight in the dark to spot them from miles away. They’re also very good at concealing themselves, although the larger owls can make quite a lot of noise before they catch their prey.

But with skunks, they have to pick a slightly different tactic. They have to a bit more silent and stealthy in this case, allowing the skunk no chance of protecting itself. A major advantage that an owl has over a skunk is that it will catch mostly at night, which is when the skunk mostly switches off and lets its guard down.

Larger owls will target larger, solitary skunks that will not be able to attack back. And an owl attack can be deadly from the first time it strikes, using its powerful claws to inflict irreversible damage to the skunk.

4. Wolves

Birds are the primary predators of skunks because of their ability to hide and attack unexpectedly. But other mammals, such as wolves, are also common hunters of the skunk provided that they can catch them off-guard.

Wolves normally strike and prey in groups, especially when they go after larger types of prey. But for catching smaller mammals, a lone wolf is perfectly capable to fend for itself. It has strong hunting tendencies and much stronger senses than a skunk, especially its smell.

And that’s often what gives away a skunk’s position. Because they have a pungent natural odor, they can be smelled from miles away, although they mustn’t be given any chance to prepare for the attack if it is to be successful.

5. Coyotes

Coyotes are much more stealthy than wolves. Their hunting mechanisms resemble much more that of a fox rather than a wolf, although coyotes also travel in packs when needed. That suits them well against larger types of prey, although against a skunk, that’s not the best way to proceed.

If they’re able to stay hidden and away from the skunk’s sight, they can strike it and kill it with one blow. But they tend to focus on other types of prey, and will only turn to the skunk if they are given no other chance.

6. Dogs

Even dogs are capable of killing and eating a skunk, although they will probably refrain from doing it. Some dog breeds, especially the predatory types of dog breeds that we keep at home, are capable of killing a skunk.

But if the skunk is prepared for the attack, then a dog will probably run away because of the noxious smells of the skunks. 

How Does a Skunk Protect Itself?

A skunk is very good at protecting itself against potential predator attacks. They have several mechanisms to do that, although the main mechanism they use most commonly is their smell.

A single spray of the skunk can be long-lasting and strong, leaving these scents in the area for minutes or hours. They release this skunk spray that contains organic compounds called thiols.

These organic compounds allow the smell to merge with the air and stay present for days to come. And the smells might even come after the “skunking”, which is thanks to thioacetates, another compound that’s present in the spray. When this gets released, the smells are able to stay present with the skunk for several days.

This means that a skunk will stay smelly even for days after releasing the spray. This gives them some protection, but it can also make them more vulnerable as they’re sniffed out from miles away by other predators. Although their biggest vulnerability is when they’re attacked from the sky because they’re not able to prepare for these attacks.

Conclusion

A skunk has a strong defense tactic that allows it to fend off attacks from potent attackers, but it can also be caught off-guard. It’s especially vulnerable to attacks from birds such as eagles and hawks, but they can also be caught by mammal predators like coyotes, wolves, and foxes. This may especially happen if they’re caught by surprise and given no chance to prepare and release their stinky spray.