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What Do Skunks Eat?

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They are commonly seen in backyards and are many times considered pests. On the flip-side many people keep these intelligent but fierce little mammals as pets. For any number of reasons you may be wondering what skunks like to eat. Okay, so what do skunks eat?   

Here’s the answer.

Skunks are omnivorous which means they eat both meat and plant. With that in mind, they’ll eat insects, small rodents, as well as berries and nuts. Below is a more complete list of foods that skunks are known for eating.

What skunks eat?

Skunk diet

Animals

  • Small mammals – Skunks regularly eat mice, rats, moles and other small mammals, but usually in the winter time.
  • Lizards and salamanders – Small lizards like salamanders, skinks, or anoles make a great source of protein for skunks.
  • Frogs – Skunks will make a meal out of just about anything smaller than they are, including frogs and toads.
  • Snakes –  Skunks will even hunt and eat venomous snakes since skunks are immune to snake venom.
  • Fish – Skunk prefer hunting on land, but will eat fish on occasion. If you have a koi pond watch out for skunks.
  • Birds – While skunks don’t typically eat flying birds unless they get the drop on them, they do have a reputation with chickens. See more on this below.
  • Eggs – Skunks are notorious egg thieves and will nab any they can, especially chicken eggs if they get into the coop.

Insects

  • Wasps and honeybees – Skunks are actually one of the primary predators of honeybees. Mother skunks will teach her young how to scratch the beehive and eat the bees that come out to investigate the ruckus.
  • Grubs, earthworms, and larvae – Skunks can regularly be seen digging holes hunting for earthworms, grub worms, and insect larvae.
  • Crickets, beetles and other small insects – When it comes to invertebrates, skunks aren’t picky and will eat just about any kind of bug or worm.

Plants

  • Berries and nuts – Skunks like eating many types of berries as well as nuts like walnuts, pecans, and hickory nuts.
  • Leaves, grass, and fungi – To balance out their diets, skunks also eat plenty of greens, some roots, and fungi like wild mushrooms.

Other

  • Human garbage – Similar to raccoons and other night foraging animals, skunks will get into your trash cans and make a mess while searching for food.
  • Pet food – As urban skunks become more dependent on humans for food, they have discovered that cat and dog food is an easy source for food.
  • Bird feeders – Skunks are also know to be a common bird feeder pest. Make sure you use a baffle on your bird feeder pole!
  • Skunk bait – If you are trying to trap a skunk or skunks that have become pests in your yard, people have had success with canned cat food, tunafish, sardines, crisp bacon, or bread with peanut butter.

Skunk on full alert with tail in the air

When do skunks feed and hunt?

Because skunks are nocturnal, they mostly hunt for food and forage starting in the early evening all through the night at which point they return to their dens to sleep for the day.

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Even though they have primarily nocturnal habits, skunks may sometimes be seen in the daytime, usually in the spring when the weather is warmer.

Do skunks eat chickens?

Skunks definitely pose a large threat to chickens, their chicks, and eggs. Skunks are notorious for busting into chicken coops and raiding it of everything they can eat. While the chickens themselves may be too large to eat they will certainly make short work of the egg and defenseless chicks and may even attack and maul the adult chickens.

Because of their short stocky bodies they are excellent diggers and will typically gain entrance to the coops this way. Skunks aren’t known for being climbers so climbing fences likely isn’t their preferred way of entering the coop.

In order to keep skunks away from your chickens you need to make sure your fences are deep in the ground. If you catch skunks attacking your chickens, in order to not get sprayed you can try shooting them from a safe distance or using a skunk trap.

What do baby skunks eat?

For the first 2 months of their lives, baby skunks nurse their young. The mother will go out foraging for food at night and return to her young in the den to nurse them. Once they reach about 2 months old the babies will emerge from the den and begin learning, with the mother’s guidance, how to forage and take care of themselves. By 4 months old they are small replicas of adult skunks.

The male skunk does not take part in raising the babies.

If you have found yourself with a baby skunk and are wanting to know what you should feed it, esbilac powder which is a milk alternative for puppies should do the trick until they are old enough for solid foods.

Do baby skunks spray?

When the babies are just about a week old they are able to emit a musk. Once they are about a month old they begin to learn how to defend themselves with their spray. When the young have reached about 4 months old they can spray with accuracy and have little to fear from predators.

When do skunks have babies?

Skunks mate in the late winter, primarily in February and March. The female is pregnant for approximately 5 to 9 weeks, depending on the species of skunk, at which point she gives birth to a litter of about 4 to 6 babies in mid spring to mid summer.

Baby skunk in the grass

What do skunks eat in the winter?

It really comes down to what’s available. In the winter months some of their preferred diet is in hibernation, not in season, or simply not available. They still dig for earthworms, grubs and other types of insects. However as we mention below, in the winter skunks become much less active and survive on fat stores and will typically need less to eat.

If the nighttime temperature is above freezing they may emerge from their dens and forage for food and take whatever their keen sense of smell helps them find.

Do skunks hibernate?

Skunks do not hibernate, they will survive on fat stores and become mostly inactive during the winter. During extreme cold they may enter a state of torpor that allows them to survive longer periods while using very little energy. They often have communal dens and will huddle together in the colder months.

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Some species of skunks, like the Striped Skunk, are polygamous and a male will share a den with multiple females in the winter.

Do skunks eat cats?

No, skunks do not eat cats. A cat is much too big for a skunk to eat as a meal, however if defenseless kittens are left unattended it’s possible that a skunk may take one as a meal. So keep small kittens in your care safe indoors if you have seen skunks in or around your property.

Do skunks attack cats?

As I mentioned, skunks do not target and eat cats, but they do love cat food. If you have an indoor/outdoor cat that is regularly fed outdoors then be wary of skunks. If a skunk comes upon a dish of cat food and a cat is standing in its way, it may very well attack the cat by any means necessary to claim the meal. So do watch out for skunks when it comes to outdoor cats.


I’ll leave you with a very informative video about a skunks most notable attribute, it’s spray. 

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