Skunk removals in Charlottetown down significantly

The City of Charlottetown has seen a significant decrease in the number of skunks it has had to remove in the last few years, and it's possible we can give the credit to foxes.

Removals are down more than 50% since 2013

Charlottetown's skunks may be having trouble competing with foxes. (Shutterstock)

The City of Charlottetown has seen a significant decrease in the number of skunks it has had to remove in the last few years, and it's possible we can give the credit to foxes.

Back in 2013 the city removed 648 skunks, and in 2017 just 293. While this is not a direct measure of population, the steady decrease in captures does suggest a significant decline.

Marina Silva-Opps, an ecology professor at UPEI, said it is possible the robust population of foxes in the city may be having an impact on the skunks.

If the foxes are a factor in the skunk population decline, it would not be a matter of predation, she said. Skunks are not a favoured food of foxes, and it is unlikely they would eat enough to bring the population down.

Foxes and skunks have overlapping tastes. (George Gallant)

It is more likely, she said, that there could be competition for the same food sources, such earthworms and other invertebrates.

"Potentially there are many factors that could explain this fluctuation, it could be just natural reasons. But there is certainly, based on studies, evidence from other places in North America foxes and skunks do compete for similar resources," said Silva-Opps.

"They have overlapping tastes."

Fox competition may be a problem for Charlottetown's skunks, but there could be other factors at play, says Marina Silva-Opps. (CBC)

In cases where animals are competing for similar resources, said Silva-Opps, it is generally the smaller animal that suffers the most.

In this case, that would be the skunk.

Silva-Opps said it will be interesting to see if this decline continues in coming years.

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Kevin Yarr

Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. You can reach him at kevin.yarr@cbc.ca.