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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Aversive or Attractive? The Effects of Skunk Oil on Predator Behavior

  • Author(s): Schiefelbein, Holly
  • Stankowich, Theodore
  • et al.

The oil produced by the anal glands of the striped skunk is known to be a strong deterrent to potential predators. However, it is also a common ingredient in many trap lures, especially those for carnivores such as the coyote. This paradoxical nature of skunk oil being both attractive and aversive has yet to be investigated, leaving a gap in the understanding of how predators of skunks respond to visual and olfactory information. In this project, camera traps with baited skunk models with either black-andwhite or brown pelage were deployed in natural areas around Southern California in order to study the effects of skunk oil and pelt coloration on predator behavior. Our study found scented models were less likely to be visited, indicating an avoidance of the oil and its scent.

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