There are two very different reasons why anyone would want to know what skunks feed on: the first reason is probably that these pesky scavengers have been foraging in your trash and littering the whole place, and you want to get rid of the food they eat to keep them away, secondly, you probably love this nocturnal creature, and you want to know how to attract them to your home.
Skunks are omnivores, so they eat plant and animal-based food, including fruits, nuts, insects, vegetables, and the like.
However, their eating pattern is affected by the season of the year. Secondly, skunks in the wild feed a lot differently from those in captivity or grow with humans as pets. Today we launch into the world of skunks and what they love to eat.
Whenever most people think about skunks, the only thing that comes to mind is “that primarily nocturnal mammal that sprays the most overpowering stench.” But many people don’t realize that skunks are really not so troublesome and irksome, and they can even be kept as pets.
Skunks are mammals whose unique white and stripping can easily identify, and they were first identified in the 15th century. Since then, about ten different species of the animal have been identified. Skunks are scientifically classified as:
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Superfamily: Musteloidea
- Family: Mephitidae
- Family Mephitidae
These are the different species of skunks
- Genus: Conepatus
- Conepatus chinga – Molina’s hog-nosed skunk
- Conepatus leuconotus – American hog-nosed skunk
- Conepatus humboldtii – Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunk
- Conepatus semistriatus – striped hog-nosed skunk
- Genus: Mephitis
- Mephitis mephitis – striped skunk
- Mephitis macroura – hooded skunk
- Genus: Spilogale
- Spilogale gracilis – western spotted skunk
- Spilogale angustifrons – southern spotted skunk
- Spilogale pygmaea – pygmy spotted skunk
- Spilogale putorius – eastern spotted skunk
Read Also: How Small a Hole Can a Skunk Fit Through?
Skunks are found in different habitats, but you will find them mostly in places close to a water source, like a stream or a pond.
Animal burrows, underneath porches and tree hollows, are the most common places they live, and they feed on many things that we will discuss later.
Nutrient Requirements Of Skunks
The fact is that skunks in the wild have a much shorter lifespan than those in captivity; all things being equal, this is attributable to the fact that those in the wild have predators to contend with, and secondly, they might not eat the kind of food that supplies them the kind of nutrient they require.
When a skunk is kept on a healthy diet and active so that it won’t be obese, it can live for up to 10 years. The meal of a skunk should include the following nutrients:
This is one of the main food nutrients that skunks need, and it should make up more than 40% of their daily diet. In the wild, skunks can get their protein requirement from eating insects, grubs, crickets, worms, mice, cockroaches, and the like. Pumpkins, almonds, and sunflowers are also protein-rich diets for skunks.
For the skunks in captivity, either as pets or in the zoo, they can get foods that are a source of protein, like meat, dairy products, raw or cooked eggs, raw chicken, canned salmon, and cheese.
2. Vegetables For Vitamins
Vegetables of up to 30-40% of their diet are ideal for Skunks, and the good thing is that there are lots of plants to choose from, including broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, kale, lettuce, carrots, eggplants, to tomatoes.
You can serve these plants to your pet skunk, raw or frozen, and it will still be okay for them. You, however, must not feed them more than 40% of vegetables, especially if you want them not to lose some bone mass.
3. Carbohydrates and Fats
Skunks are very timely animals, requiring energy and a reasonable amount of fat and carbohydrates. The grains they consume will supply a good amount of this energy. You should never feed skunks with lots of fatty foods or carbs because they can become obese and unhealthy.
4. Fruits For Vitamins
It is safe and healthy for you to feed skunks with vitamins-rich food like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, bananas, melons, apples, and pears. Skunks love these fruits, and they supply an ample amount of Vitamins.
A good diet for your pet also includes a mix of vitamins and minerals. At the same time, most fruits and vegetables will supply the mineral needed for salt.
You can also meet your vet to recommend the essential nutrients your pet needs, including calcium for bone growth and Vitamin D. This is very important because skunks are prone to bone issues and arthritis, so these come very handy.
This might seem like much of a nutrient, but skunks need water for all the metabolic processes in their body. Ensure that your skunk has a good supply of water as it feeds.
What Do Skunks Eat?
Skunks are not picky eaters (like some kids, you know), they are omnivores, and so they eat about anything; while there are foods they prefer more than others, in the absence of their favorite meals, they will eat what they can find.
During summer and spring, skunks in the wild have a wide array of small prey and insects they feed on. Hence, they eat quite a lot at this warm time of the year, and when it gets chilly in winter, they do not have access to most of the food they are used to eating, and at such times, you will find skunks foraging for food in garbages, or they resort to eating edible plants they find around.
All things have been equal, skunks are voracious feeders, and they prefer high-fat, calorie-rich foods, which are not exactly good for them because they will get them obese with its attendant consequences.
Skunks love to eat, and they continue to eat even if they are full. This is why most skunks in captivity are too fat, and hence they develop health challenges.
The nose of the skunk is one of its most important sense organs in hunting for food; this is so because, as nocturnal animals that hunt for food at night, they can smell their pretty even in the dark.
Hence this very keen sense of smell and hearing is their adaptation for hunting at night. After all, they rarely rely on their eyes to forage and hunt for food because they have limited vision.
Skunks are good runners who can run at a speed of 10 miles per hour; this is a skill they require for hunting their prey; coupled with very strong forearms and claws for digging for burrowing animals and insects, you have a combination that brings skunks the ample amount of food they need.
Here are some of the most favorite foods skunks live to eat:
1. Insects And Small Animals
You might not have thought of it, but skunks serve some benefit to humans than we realize, and this is in the sense that they feed on (or should we say “really enjoy”) some harmful insects that we find around us. About 70% of a skunk’s diet comprises insects like
- Snakes, crickets,
- Tiny frogs
- Bees (Their thick coat of fur protects them from getting bee stings)
- Snakes (Their immunity to snake venom helps them eat poisonous ones such as rattlesnakes)
Skunks also feed on other animals that are not harmful to man, including:
- Small reptiles
- Ground nesting birds
2. Plant Materials
“If the desirable is no longer available, then the available becomes desirable” this is the mantra that skunks go by in terms of feeding on plants when they run out of animals and insects to feed in.
Skunks prefer eating animals over plants. However, plant material may be the most available food depending on the time of the year. During such times, you will find skunks feeding on:
- Berries of all kinds
- Plant roots
- Dead plant matter
a. In Summer
Because of the array of insects and animals that stinks can feed on in summer and spring, you find them eating too much and accumulating a lot of fat, which will be helpful in winter when the food supply is greatly reduced. Hence in summer, you find skunks eating mostly high-calorie and fatty foods like:
- Fatty fish
- Birds and their eggs
b. In Winter
When the weather is cold, skunks enter a torpor similar to hibernation, but they still wake up, move around and search for food.
Because of the fewer food sources skunks have at their disposals this time, you will find them foraging in garbages and trash cans for food or feeding mostly on:
- Mountain Ash
- Hickory nuts
- Sunflower seeds
What Pet Skunks Eat
Your let skunks should be fed with all the foods mentioned already, but since you might not be able to source some of them (I can imagine searching for grubs, larvae of insects, and worms for skunks. Simply gross), you should give them a diet of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and cooked grains.
You can serve vegetables, meats, and fruits cooked or raw, but make sure to cook all grains before serving them. Oats, cereals, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or rice will supply the carbohydrates that skunks need.
You should give them a sizeable amount of low-sugar fruits like berries and melons and add only a small portion of high-sugar fruits like bananas, apples, or pears less frequently. You should also incorporate a lot of leafy and root vegetables in their food, including carrots, squash, and the like.
If you are bothered that you might not be giving your skunk pet the best food it deserves, then you might have to get a commercial for it.
The good news is that you can get lots of stress food online and in stores. These commercial feeds will supplement the additional nutrients they need. They are mostly composed of canned insects.
What Not to Feed Skunks With
If you love your pet skunk, then there are certain food you should never feed them with. Some foods are not just healthy for them; others are outrightly dangerous. Here are copies that are not suitable for skunks:
1. Cat and Dog Food
You might be tempted to feed that pet skunk with a cat or dog food, but this is not a wise thing to do because that food has a high fat and protein content, which is too much for skunks. Even if you give them these foods, then they should be done once in a long while
2. Processed And Friend Foods
Although skunks love processed food (just like most of us), they are however not good for their health. Chocolates, potato chips, sweets, cakes, candies, and all such foods are high in fat and sugar, and this will cause the skunks to grow fat quickly. Some of these foods have preservatives and other additives that are not good for the body.
3. Other Foods That Are Bad For Skunks
- Asparagus: it is known to cause seizures in skunks
- Garlic and Onions: they cause anemia in skunks.
- Grapes and raisins: Some skunks have gotten sick or died from eating grapes or raisins.
- Yogurts: even most low-fat yogurt may contain aspartame (Nutra-sweet) and should not be given to skunks.
- Raw nuts and some grains may contain small amounts of yeast or mold that may cause allergic reactions.
- Lunch meat (salami, bologna, etc.)
Skunks are omnivores; they are not picking eaters and will eat anything they find, including diverse plants and animal species. Usually, during warm seasons, they have a wide variety of insects and small animals to feed on, but in winter, these food sources are greatly reduced.
Hence, you might find them scavenging through the garbage and trash cans looking for food, leaving a mess and an unpleasant odor in the yard.
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We trust this article helped you learn what skunks eat. You may also want to check out How To Keep Skunk Out of Your Yard.
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