LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) --California State University, Long Beach researchers are looking into a skunk's defense mechanism as a way to train coyotes not to attack pets in residential areas.
Skunk expert and biologist Dr. Ted Stankowich is leading the study. He said that famous skunk spray is an amazing mechanism, and he and his researchers are seeing how the two wild animals interact.
"Our goal is to use this type of information to design a way to train coyotes to not attack pets," he said.
He uses a coyote robot with an infrared camera, a thermal camera and other high-tech gear for research.
As part of the research, Stankowich and his crew armed themselves with night vision gear and go on nocturnal skunk tracking missions to see the defense mechanism in action.
"It's the first time we're actually able to see what a predator sees when we encounter a skunk," he said. "Skunks don't want to spray you. As long as you back away and give them their space and move on, they're not going to spray you at all."
As for conditioning coyotes, Stankowich admits it's pretty far down the line and that he's still working out some first generation Obi Wan coyote kinks, such as trying to keep it from crashing into trees.
But he has high hopes his high-tech skunk research will pass the smell test.