Influence of Wind and Humidity on Foraging Behavior of Olfactory Mesopredators

Rebekah E. Ruzicka, Michael R. Conover


Many mammalian predators rely on scents to locate prey and weather conditions that affect an odor plume (i.e., scents suspended in air) or depositional odor (i.e., scents laid on the ground) should affect predator foraging behavior. We predicted that wind speed, wind direction, and humidity would influence the foraging behavior of olfactory mesopredators. We tested these predictions by conducting spotlight surveys for foraging Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes), Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis), and Raccoons (Procyon lotor) along the dike surrounding Willard Bay Reservoir in Willard, Utah, from August 2008 to August 2009. We recorded predator species, locations, numbers, and weather conditions at the time each predator was observed. While humidity had no effect on foraging, wind speed and direction were significant predictors of a predator's nightly foraging activity, with most predators observed when wind speeds were 2 to 4 m/s and winds were blowing perpendicularly over the dike the dike rather than parallel to the dike. Wind speed and direction also influenced where predators foraged on the dike, with predators being more likely to forage on the windward side of the dike when wind speeds were high enough to cause turbulence. We detected differences among predator species in their response to wind speed: Raccoons were more active than Striped Skunks and Red Foxes when the wind was calm and blowing parallel to the dike. Overall, our results indicate that these predator species alter their foraging behavior based on wind speed and wind direction. By foraging when winds were light and blowing perpendicularly over the dike, predators could likely enhance their ability to locate food using olfaction.


Striped Skunk; Mephitis mephitis; Raccoon; Procyon lotor; Red Fox; Vulpes vulpes; mesopredator; olfaction; olfactory predator; Utah

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