bill_bill (bill_bill) wrote,

Stinking predators

Night before last we were awakened by sounds of distressed chickens. Dashed outside with flashlight to discover a great horned owl in the chicken house closest to our house, having entered through a gap in the roof. No harm done to any chickens yet, and the owl was throughly panicked, unable to find a way out. Being careful to stay out of the way of snapping beak and slashing talons, I opened the door, got myself out of the way, and the owl flew off into the night in that amazing silent way. I'd never been that close (like, two feet) to a wild great horned owl before. And one of the first things I noticed was...


I've heard about it from raptor rescue people, and been told that museums hate freshly-arrived great horned specimens because of the stink. Seems that one of the major components of the diet of a great horned owl in the wild is... skunks. It was so strong that when I came back to bed Peggy could smell it on me, and I had not even touched the bird. The next morning the chicken house still smelled of skunk, and had I not seen the owl I would have been certain that a skunk had broken in during the night.

Trade off -- does the owl itself do more damage to the chickens than the benefit it creates by eating all those skunks (and minks and possums and raccoons and weasels) who are fond of eggs and chickens, too?
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