Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 44(1):58–59; 2012


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Skunks (Mephitidae) are capable of projecting pungent, oily musk from paired anal glands (Verts 1967), which acts as a central nervous system depressant (Wade- Smith and Verts 1982), and can incapacitate birds of prey if directed into the eyes (Garcelon 1981). Consequently, few raptors are known to prey on striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis). Great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) are the only raptor that regularly preys on skunks (Bent 1938b, Lowery 1974, Houston et al. 1998), although occasional instances of predation by golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos; Olendorff 1976, Palmer 1988a), bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalis; Broley 1952, Wade-Smith and Verts 1982), northern harriers (Circus cyaneus; Fisher 1893), and rough-legged hawks (Buteo lagopus; Bent 1938a) have been reported. Striped skunk remains were found in two (1.1%) of 173 red-tailed hawk (B. jamaicensis) stomachs examined by Warren (1890), but because these raptors frequently scavenge carcasses (Errington 1933, Fitch et al. 1946, Orians and Kuhlman 1956), the skunks could have been consumed as carrion rather than killed as prey. Even the consumption of striped skunks as carrion appears infrequent as Fitch et al. (1946) noted only three (6.3%) skunks among 47 items of carrion consumed by nesting red-tailed hawks.