Have you heard the latest skunk joke? Never mind, it stinks. Most are known for their black and white colour but are most famous for their noxious odour.
Though most people consider skunks a nuisance, they can be beneficial because of some things they relish eating. What do skunks eat? Let’s dive in.
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Skunk Habits and Biology
Not all skunks are striped or black and white. Others are brown, and others are spotted. There exist 11 different species in the skunk family. The most common being the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis).
The polecat, as other people refer to them, are primarily nocturnal creatures. You’ll find them in forests, deserts, and even mountains, depending on the species.
Most skunks weigh 1-3 pounds and can weigh up to 15 pounds as they are prone to obesity due to poor feeding.
In the wild, they make homes of tree hollows, animal burrows, hollowed tree logs, and underneath porches. These dwelling places are usually 2 miles away from a water source. Therefore, they don’t have to wander far to quench their thirst.
If their shelters are inaccessible by any chance, skunks are known to dig burrows on their own.
Skunks are known to be defensive creatures. When in fear of threat or backed to a corner, they release a deadly spray from their backside, allowing them time to escape.
This noxious spray comes from their anal glands located in the rectum and the bottom of their tail. Despite all animals having the same, in skunks, the glands are more developed. Skunks have two anal scent glands, and each one of them has a nipple associated with it.
With highly coordinated muscle control, it can aim and spray at its target with precision, usually aiming for the face. Its aim is most accurate at a distance of 2 metres.
Skunks are preyed on by several animals, including; horned owls, eagles, foxes, dogs, bobcats, mountain lions, and even humans.
Finally, they are solitary creatures except for the breeding season and winter, where females den together. The male is driven off after mating. Female raise the litter of two to twelve (offspring) kits alone.
Do Skunks Eat Dirt?
A skunk diet is vast as it is a known omnivore. And like raccoons, they have scavenger tendencies. Therefore, like raccoons, they rummage through garbage and trash to find something to eat.
Skunks seldom exhibit this behaviour as it is only done when they are running out of options. When food is scarce, during winter, they invade inhabited areas in search of a meal.
A lot of destruction is caused along the way. Trash cans are overturned, and garbage is dug through. When pushed to the brink of starvation, skunks would eat anything, even dirt, if need be. Believe it!
What Do Skunks Like to Eat Most?
As previously mentioned, skunks are omnivores, hence can eat a variety of foods. Meat, insects, and veggies alike. Small prey consisting mainly of insects and rodents tend to top the rankings on their menu.
Because of the changing seasons throughout the year, their feeding habits tend to vary. Especially during winter as skunks don’t normally hibernate.
When it’s summer or spring, their diets mainly consist of small prey and insects. During winter, in the scarcity of these prey, they are forced to forage, and their diet primarily consists of fruits and veggies.
Their diets also vary depending on where they live, whether in deserts, forests, or urban areas.
Like people, skunks need to eat a balanced diet and exercise to stay healthy. Pet skunks usually suffer from several health problems or an early death due to poor feeding habits by the owner.
They can live for ten years in the wild, whereas domesticated ones rarely make it past five years. So, if you are ever thinking of owning a pet skunk, better keep that in mind.
If you were to open a restaurant for these stinkers, include the following items on the menu.
- Skunks are lucky to be among the chosen few animals that are immune to snake venom. Sadly for snakes, that puts them underneath skunks on the food chain.
- Spiders are also on the list, including the dreaded black widow spider.
- Insects such as roaches, grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles are also top contenders on the menu. All of which are considered pests by human beings. So, skunks are not all that bad.
- Beetles and their larvae are a favorite to eat.
- A little seafood is always good for the diet. Skunks enjoy eating a variety of fish, including sardines.
- Ground nesting birds are fed on as well, as they are an easy catch.
- Skunks also eat amphibians, including frogs, toads, and newts.
- And a delicacy they enjoy most, bees and their honey. Skunks are protected from bee stings by their thick fur.
Throughout summer, they feed in large amounts to sustain themselves during the winter season. As you know, during winter, plenty of animals hibernate or migrate, thus creating a scarcity of prey.
During the winter season, these critters are forced to adjust their diets as they don’t hibernate. Hence, they keep feeding to stay warm and healthy. In these trying times, they forage for the following.
- Edible leaves.
- Nutritious grasses.
- Mostly enjoy corn, grapes, cherries and a variety of berries.
- Roots and nuts.
Roots and fruits are their favorites when it comes to eating plants.
Food scarcity during winter may cause them to invade homes and feed on food sources around the property.
Like their omnivore counterparts, skunks also feed on garbage like foxes, especially if left unattended. Trash tends to attract insects and rodents, which skunks enjoy.
Rotting foods and leftovers make up an excellent meal. Skunks target other food sources like bird feeders, compost piles, and BBQs when there is no trash around.
Foods To Avoid When Feeding Skunks
Many animals are like human beings, whereby without a proper diet or feeding habit, they are prone to falling ill and sometimes even death.
The same way you may have allergic reactions to certain foods applies to skunks as well. Also, in the same way, overeating may cause obesity, or eating less than enough may lead to malnourishment, applies to these striped beasts as well.
Here are some things to avoid feeding skunks as they may be hazardous to the creature’s health.
- Avoid feeding them a heavy vegetable diet. Otherwise, they lose bonemarrow.
- Would you please not feed skunks cat and dog food. They contain too much fat and protein content for the animal.
- Avoid feeding them processed foods such as potato chips and sweets as they are rich in sugar and fats.
- Don’t feed the lunch meat such as bologna and salami.
- Avoid feeding them hotdogs.
- Would you please not feed them asparagus? It causes seizures.
- Avoid feeding them onions as it may cause anaemia.
- Please don’t feed them birdseed mix such as sunflower seeds.
- Avoid feeding them raw nuts and some grains. These foods contain moulds and yeast that may trigger allergic reactions.
- Feeding them chocolates may lead to diabetes and cause seizures.
Laxity of some food items in their diet may also lead to complications. Some of these complications include anaemia, loss of hair, loss of bone marrow, change in fur colour, loss of hair, to name a few.
Just as you eat a balanced diet, so should these creatures. And exercise as well, because an obese skunk won’t be capable of running away from a predator. Neither will it be able the hunt effectively.
The perfect skunk diet should contain 60-70% protein and 30-40% vegetables. In addition, it should also include other essential minerals and supplements.
Tips To Feeding Skunks
When it comes to feeding skunks, you must be careful with what you choose to give. As discussed above, they require a balanced diet just as much as you do.
Lack of a healthy diet may lead to ‘Lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, loss of bone marrow and can even become obese.
When feeding skunks, there are several things you should consider. These things are as follows:
- For these furry critters, their diet should include a mixture of veggies, carbohydrates, and proteins, among other essential minerals and supplements to keep healthy.
- Skunks should be fed twice a day with all nutrients included in one meal.
- For baby skunks (kits), four months or less should be fed four times a day like puppies. The nutrients should be well balanced in each meal.
- Generally, the diet should include a healthy percentage of protein, as previously discussed. Salmons, red meat, raw chicken, cheese, and dairy products are good protein sources.
- Insects like crickets, worms, and rodents would be an excellent supplement to the meal.
- About forty percent of the diet should be made up of veggies. These veggies may include bell peppers, red cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and cauliflower. It can be served fresh or frozen or fresh.
- Skunks also eat cooked foods though they should only be fed such food once a month. Such food could be potatoes, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.
- The skunk should be given fruits, ranging from bananas and watermelons, apples and pairs, to balance out the diet
- Minerals are essential in any diet. A vet can recommend supplements to include in the diet. These include calcium for the bone and vitamin D.
- If the skunk is not eating enough protein, you can purchase taurine and add it to its meals. This assists in muscle formation.
Despite their terrible stench and destructive habits, skunks also prove to be helpful, thanks to their special diets containing snakes, spiders, and other insects, which help rid you of pests.
They make excellent pets and may live a long life if given a bath, tender, love, care, and healthy food.