What Do Skunks Eat? What Do Skunks Snack On In Summer?

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Feb 29, 2024 By Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
A mammal and a member of the weasel family
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.2 Min

Have you ever seen a skunk? Maybe or maybe not, but you definitely must have smelledone.

A skunk's smell is hard to ignore and not at all difficult to recognize. These mammalian species are said to have a pungent smell released through the base of their tail when they are threatened.

Well, if you are lucky enough, you might get a warning before they eject their smelly spray through their glands right at your eyes! In this article, we will explore in detail what these smelly animals feed on, whether they change their eating habits seasonally, and their overall diet structure during their lifetime.

Troubled by skunks frequently visiting your yard? Read on to find out how to keep them away. If you enjoyed this article, why not also read about what do chipmunks eat and what do beavers eat here on Kidadl.

What do skunks eat in the wild?

There are mainly four species of skunk in the world. These include the striped skunk, hooded skunk, hog-nosed, and spotted skunks. Striped skunks are black and they have prominent white stripes on their snout. They are the largest of the skunk species. Hooded skunks have distinctive tufts of fur around their necks.

Many animals camouflage themselves when a predator is near, but skunks give a warning instead. Before using their skunk spray, some skunks have been spotted stomping their feet, hissing, puffing up their fur, or raising their tails.

Did you know skunks are nocturnal animals? It means these young mammals tend to look for food during night hours.

What do skunks like to eat the most?

Skunks generally feed on various insects, rodents, mice, bees, water snakes, ground-nesting birds, amphibians such as frogs and toads, fish, small rabbits, moles, and various other small animals. Skunks also feed on rotting food in the garbage and leftovers overflowing in trash cans.

Their favorite food consists of oily meats like chicken and fish. This is because skunks possess strong olfactory senses. As a result, they are mostly attracted towards meat-based meals like fish and chicken, but anything particularly smelly works in their favor.

Although skunks are omnivorous mammals, they do not have highly predacious tendencies as they lack the capacity of a proper mechanism to defend or attack other animals or to prey on them. As a result, a skunk's diet is seasonal and very flexible with their habitat. Some common elements of a skunk's diet include small creatures like bugs, mice, rodents, grubs, and plant-based food sources like grass, foliage, and flowering plants.

Due to the fact they lack predatory skills, skunks mostly don't prey on big animals as it would be difficult for them to handle. There's a very common misconception that skunks kill and feed on cats and dogs! They don't unless it's small prey.

Be extra cautious if you have kittens and puppies at home because skunks tend to attack these small animals if left unattended. Skunks do love cat food and they often tend to target cats whilst they are being fed outdoors. A skunk may attack a cat in order to get the meal by any means. Be very careful about skunks if you have pet animals on your premises, as skunks can be very harmful at times. It is unlikely that skunks will kill your pets, like cats, however, they can cause significant harm because they are very aggressive.

Where do skunks fit in the animal food chain?

Skunks hold great significance in the animal food chain in terms of maintaining a balance in the ecosystem. Skunks mainly eat insects, small mammals, reptiles, and arthropods. They help in keeping the population of these creatures under check.

Without skunks, the robust food chain would become disproportionate. Predators have a significant role in keeping the population of lower organisms in the food chain under control which in turn helps in the prevention of the overuse of resources. Skunks eat a large variety of arthropods and young creatures. Their diet is very much dependable on availability and the season.

They eject a foul-smelling odor called a 'musk' in threatening circumstances as a self-defense mechanism that is released from glands behind the skunk's tail. However, unlike predators, skunks do not kill and feed on their prey.

Skunks completely depend on foraging for food in order to survive, which includes plants and fruits as well. A skunk's survival largely depends on the availability of three basic requirements. These are shelter, water, and food. Each of these amenities is readily available in our backyard. Skunks have an affinity towards low-hanging fruits, trash cans overflowing with garbage, and pet food. They are also attracted to your yard because skunks feed on birdseed and sunflower seeds.

Skunks are nocturnal species and they tend to stay solitary and avoid moving large distances at once. The night is the time when you can spot a skunk foraging for food. They prefer to take shelter in dark places where they can be safe and protected from possible predators during the day. This is another reason why these animals are attracted to gardens. Yards can include dark areas under decks, porches, and basements.

Skunks are said to be beneficial because insects are their primary food source so you don't have to worry about potential pest attacks or infestations. However, these species can be a nuisance for humans! Skunks feed on corn stalks, take poultry or eggs, and even damage beehives. In urban areas, their digging leaves holes in lawns, gardens, and golf courses. They often leave garbage areas in terrible conditions after feeding on them.

There are quite a few things you can do to get skunks to leave your property.

Skunks eat from garbages sources. Make sure to put your garbage somewhere a skunk cannot reach so you will be saved from cleaning the mess skunks create when rummaging through your rubbish. Try not to serve food to your pets outside your property after sunset. The odor of cat food shall attract skunks and they might try to harm the pets in order to get the food. Skunks don't like light sources and noisy environments. If you turn on a couple of outdoor lights for some time, skunks will get annoyed and might leave your premises.

It has also been discovered that skunks do not like the smell of citrus fruits. Try placing orange or lemon peels all around your yard to encourage the skunk to leave. Also, any other strong-smelling sources like onions are helpful to scare them away. Predator urine can also be used as a natural skunk repellent. Make sure to keep your backyard clean and any overgrown shrubberies trimmed. Accumulation of piles of rocks and pebbles is discouraged as skunks tend to nest in places like these. Lastly, you can leave a trap in expected locations and call animal control services.

Striped Skunks, Minnesota

What do baby skunks eat?

Baby skunks ideally shouldn't be fed anything initially. These animals are extremely fragile and they require a lot of attention and care. You should consult a professional to know the right amounts of protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals that a baby skunk should eat.

You can mix the right proportion of KMR (kitten milk replacer) with water and feed a baby skunk. Anything other than that, even plain water, can prove to be harmful to the skunk.

A skunk's diet is not similar to pet cats and pet dogs. It is actually very different from them. Feeding them inappropriately will result in a baby skunk getting sick with diarrhea and an upset stomach. A baby skunk, also called a kit, needs to be fed at least four times a day. Their meal can be a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables.

You never know if a baby skunk is suffering from trauma, is starving, or dehydrated. Feeding them will only result in indigestion which is detrimental to a skunk. In extreme cases, it may result in bloating, shock, and eventually death of the skunk.

The first thing you should do is seek professional help for the baby skunk so that medical assessments can be performed. The vet will also recommend food so you are able to feed it accordingly.

Baby skunks are extremely fragile, if you try to feed them with water there is a high chance that the water can accidentally end up in their lungs leading to pneumonia and eventually, death.

Ideally, after three months of feeding the baby skunk, it should be able to start feeding on its own. By this time, skunks are fit to eat boiled carrots, eggs, vanilla water, vegetable oil, seafood, cheese, yogurt, fatty fish, peas, corn, nuts, and mushrooms as their meal.

What do pet skunks eat?

Pet skunks should have a meal with an ample combination of vegetables, cooked chicken, cooked rice, oats, and cereal.

Just like humans, skunks are prone to become obese too. Pet skunks have over-eating problems just like we humans do. Excessive body fat can cause severe health complications in skunks and can lead to early death. A skunk fed with healthy diets and subjected to an active lifestyle can live up to 10 long years.

A pet skunk has comparatively low energy requirements in contrast with a wild skunk because the food source in the wild is sudden, their next meal could be literally anything that comes across them. As a result, the skunk is subjected to high calories. A pet skunk living in a domestic environment has low energy requirements because of decreased physical activities so it must be fed accordingly.

You can go for commercial skunk diet foods which can be directly ordered from manufacturers. This can serve as one of the easiest options to manage your pet skunk's diet.

What do skunks eat in the summer?

During the summer and spring seasons, a skunk's diet mainly consists of insects like beetles, larvae, crickets, grasshoppers, and bees. Apart from that, their meals include small portions of birds, bird eggs, fruits, mice, and rodents as well.

Skunks apparently become more active than usual during high temperatures. With increased activity, their dietary requirements undergo a change as well. After a tough winter season, spring brings relief in terms of food. With the season of spring comes an abundance of insect larvae and bird eggs. This helps skunks fulfill protein and fat requirements in their diet. Their diet majorly consists of plant-based foods during the spring season because this is the time when nature is at its peak.

Skunks may have an affinity towards insects but they often target helpless small preys like mice, rabbits, small reptiles, moles, and rodents. Often, skunks attack birds nesting in-ground and amphibians to feed on them and their eggs and larvae.

Food is scarce during the fall and winter seasons and they are left with fruits, nuts, bird seeds, and pet food to scavenge on. If they get their hands on some small reptiles and mammals then rats, snakes, young rabbits, and chicken eggs usually consist of their meal.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what do skunks eat then why not take a look at what do chinchillas eat, or striped skunk facts!

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason

Bachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason picture

Adekunle Olanrewaju JasonBachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

With over 3+ years of professional experience, Olanrewaju is a certified SEO Specialist and Content Writer. He holds a BSc in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. Throughout his dynamic career, Olanrewaju has successfully taken on various roles with startups and established organizations. He has served as a Technical Writer, Blogger, SEO Specialist, Social Media Manager, and Digital Marketing Manager. Known for his hardworking nature and insightful approach, Olanrewaju is dedicated to continuous learning and improvement.
Read full bio >