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What Do Skunks Eat? Wild Vs. Pet Skunks Diet

From zoos to TV cartoons, everybody has seen or heard of skunks. These animals are easy to identify due to the  black and white striping of the fur. Although their appearance is adorable and funny, the unpleasant spray the skunks produce is almost unbearable.

Not many people can say that they have experienced the nasty smell of a skunk. However, the ones who did will still remember that odor. “The scent” is difficult to forget due to the overpowering stench that the anal glands produce. No wonder people and animals tend to run away when they see a skunk getting close to them.

As reputation goes, these wild creatures are not very popular due to their scavenging around human neighborhoods.

However, starting in the 20th century, people started to raise skunks as pets.

But why turn a skunk into a pet? Well, because skunks are pretty sensitive and intelligent creatures that can easily steal people’s hearts due to their playful nature. But what do skunks normally eat? How do wild skunks feed so they stay healthy and energetic?

Considering skunks are omnivorous animals, they won’t be that picky when it comes to food. So let’s take some time to better understand the skunk’s background and what makes up their primary diet.

Skunks Habitat

Skunks will quickly adapt to different habitats that provide them with adequate food and shelter. However, these animals will mostly prefer to live close to a water source.

Skunks are crepuscular and solitary animals. They live in hollowed-out logs, hollow tree trunks, underneath porches or old burrows belonging to other animals. When they cannot find a suitable shelter, they will start digging their own burrows.

What Do Skunks Usually Eat?

Skunks are omnivorous, so they can adapt their diet based on the food they find according to each season. During summer, skunks will go for some easy food that consists of small prey and insects. During the colder months, they might have issues accessing these natural food sources. So, during winter, if you live near a skunk habitat, you should expect skunks to invade your trash cans and scavenge your garbage.

What is extremely fascinating is that these animals are smart enough to make a cold-season backup. They do this by eating a lot of food during summer. The enormous quantity of food they ingest will help skunks sustain themselves during the winter.

According to their body size, skunks can only hunt for and eat smaller animals. But when they cannot find animal prey, they will fight to survive by eating plants, and, in a worst-case scenario, they will scavenge through garbage.

Wild Skunks’ Diet

Insects and Small Animals

So, as mentioned, skunks are omnivorous. This means that they will eat pretty much whatever they manage to find.

However, during warm months, they would prefer animal matter, such as bees, insects, beetle larvae, crickets, caterpillars, grubs or wasps. Other essential protein intake comes from animals like rabbits, birds, or small snakes.

Plants

It is crystal clear that skunks prefer eating animals over plants. However, it all depends on the season. Plant material can be the only natural food skunks can find during wintertime.

Cold months come with fewer food sources for these animals. Because of this, skunks do not have any option, so they need to eat any fruits and roots they find on the ground. Skunks will constantly forage for food, especially during the night.

Most of the plant materials that skunks prefer include blueberries, roots, fungi, nuts, grasses, cherries, or leaves.

What Do Skunks Eat In Urban Areas?

Very often, skunks leave wild areas and live closer to urban settlements. This mostly happens when they cannot find food or shelter elsewhere. Unfortunately, these animals can invade homes and feed with on food they find in the garbage or gardens.

Now, the bad part is that the skunk invasions can lead to massive garden damage. Skunks will work through the food waste until they find something interesting to eat, which can be a messy activity. Considering all the mess they can create, most people try to find different methods to keep skunks away from their yards.

So, when it comes to urban skunks’ diet, these animals will be attracted mostly by unattended garbage, where they can find most of their favorite foods. If the trash contains rodents or insects, they are even happier. Due to their adaptability, skunks will be more than satisfied with leftovers and rotting food.

However, they can go even further with their plan and target the juicy BBQ grills or compost piles. Furthermore, skunks will apply their destructive habits and open doors or ruin the garbage storage space.

The bad news is that if the skunk gets used to ‘dining out’ at your place, then expect it to come back over and over again. This is especially true for the wintertime, when they cannot find so much food around.

And trust me, you will immediately know if skunks have visited you, as they like to leave behind their ‘trade marks’, such as holes and foul odors.

Another thing you should know is that they are great diggers. These animals are determined and they can even damage the house foundations if they decide to make their burrow right underneath your home.

Of course, not all skunks will dig your yard or leave their smell in the air. But there are other signs you could spot that could suggest a skunk’s visit. For instance, if you raise chickens, you can be sure that the skunk will try to steal some eggs from their nest.

How Do Skunks Look For Food?

Skunks have an excellent sense of smell and hearing due to their nocturnal (or crepuscular) nature. Although they can hear and smell even from far distances, skunks cannot rely on their eyes to hunt or forage for food.

So, due to their limited vision, the animals will only react to changes in lighting and moving objects. Using their delicate nose, skunks will track down  strong-smelling foods like garbage, honey, fruit, or small prey. Along with their sharp smell, skunks will also use their hearing to track even the tiniest target nearby.

Skunks have powerful forearms and strong claws that help them dig for insects and underground shelters. To stay safe or hunt their prey, skunks can run pretty fast. They can even reach 10 miles per hour. However, skunks are kind of lazy, so they will rarely use their running ability to catch their prey. They prefer to stay still and attack when the prey is unaware.

How To Feed Pet Skunks

Although their odors are not pleasant, some people love the idea of keeping a skunk as their favorite pet.

But before bringing this animal into your home, it would be wise to check their diet recommendations, as well as the vaccinations they should receive. While it can be challenging to find a vet specializing in exotic or unusual animals somewhere around your area, try to locate the nearest one.

When skunks become part of your family, you need to take care of their meals. Usually, skunks have a high-calorific diet. This means they are prone to obesity, so you need to take extra care of what you feed them with.

If you think about feeding a skunk, their primary diet should consist of a mix of fruits, nuts, vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. Skunks generally do well if they eat proteins like chicken or fish and a mix of cooked grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Skunk pets can have two meals a day, or you can include all the nutrients they need in just one meal. On the other hand, baby skunks will need to eat around four times a day, just like puppies. The primary concern should be offering them all the necessary nutrients.

Do Not Feed Skunks With The Following:

  • Leaves of iceberg lettuce
  • Cat food (neither canned or dry) because it is high in protein and fat
  • Sweets
  • Fried foods
  • Chocolate
  • Lunchmeat (salami, sausage, cold meats)

Last Thoughts

Skunks do not have a peculiar diet, but they need to seek enough nutrients to survive, especially during the winter months. Since the skunks do not hibernate, they will constantly look for food from different sources to bulk up before the cold season.

Their diet consists of 75% proteins and 25% vegetables. Although they can produce a mess in the gardens, people should consider skunks as their allies because skunks can help us get rid of mice, rats, crickets, beetles, even moles throughout the growing season.

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