If you’ve seen skunks in your yard, they are most likely searching around for food. It’s probably left you questioning what they were after and wondering ‘what do skunks eat?
Skunks are omnivores but their main source of food is insects. They eat a varied diet including small animals, amphibians, reptiles, eggs, fruit, vegetables, and fungi. As skunks are opportunistic eaters they adapt their diet to what is available seasonally. Skunks have also adapted to urban environments by eating food present in yards such as pet food and trash.
Skunks have a diet very similar to raccoons. Yet they do have their own little eating quirks. This guide will tell you everything you want to know about what skunks eat. We’ll go through what they eat in the wild and in urban areas.
Let’s get going.
What Do Skunks eat in the wild?
Insects are a major part of a skunk’s diet making up around 70% of their daily intake. They are great at foraging for insects of all species and sizes. Insects provide skunks with an excellent source of protein and also water.
Skunks just love to dig to find worms and juicy grubs that live just below the soil on your lawn. They enjoy soft, juicy insects, and will wreck your lawn trying to get to them! You’ll notice a skunk has been digging for insects by the tell-tale cone-shaped holes in your grass.
Pretty much any insect is fair game for a skunk. Insects skunks like to eat include:
- yellow jackets
Skunks are really beneficial to have around for dealing with problem insects.
In their woodland habitat insects are very easy to find in the spring and summer months when there are lots around.
Skunks will still eat insects during the winter months, but not as many as most insects are dormant during this time.
2. Bees & Honey
Skunks are the number one predator for honey bees and their hives. The skunk will eat both the bees and the honeycomb inside.
Skunks’ mouths are protected against bee stings which is why they can eat a lot of bees easily.
As skunks are nocturnal feeders they need to encourage the bees to come out of the hives at night.
The skunk will scratch the surface of the hive to entice the bees to investigate. Once they leave the hive the skunk eats them. They will mostly chew them to extract the bodily fluids and then spit out the solid parts. A skunk will eat a whole hive of bees if they get the chance to.
Although skunks are mainly at the hive for the bees they will sometimes help themselves to the honey inside the hive.
Skunks are known to eat small rodents such as mice, rats, and moles. Although they won’t specifically go hunting for rodents, they will eat them if given the chance.
Skunks tend to eat rodents during the colder months of the year. This is because their usual protein source of insects is lying dormant.
Smaller rodents are easier for skunks to catch and eat. They may eat larger rodents if they are injured or diseased and unable to flee.
Rodents are also easier for skunks to catch as they are nocturnal and there are lots around when skunks are feeding at night.
4. Amphibian & reptiles
Skunks are also known to eat amphibians and reptiles such as frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, and salamanders. Depending on the environment these can be available in large numbers and easy for skunks to catch.
Amphibians and reptiles are small and provide a lot of protein for skunks. The soft flesh and hollow bones make these animals easy for skunks to feast on.
Smaller reptiles are a lot easier for skunks to catch than larger ones. They will use their claws or teeth to immobile any prey they find.
Venomous reptiles are not a risk for skunks as they are one of a few animals that are immune to their venom. That’s why skunks can easily eat rattlesnakes without being hurt by them.
5. Birds & eggs
Skunks will eat ground-feeding birds they find in the wild. That’s because skunks aren’t great at climbing and can’t really get to birds that are higher up. That is unless those birds are sick or injured.
Ground feeding birds also tend to have their nest lower to the ground, which makes their young and eggs fair game for foraging skunks.
Skunks will also raid chicken coops to forage for eggs. If they are desperate they may even kill a chicken, but this is quite rare.
6. Fruits & vegetable
When food sources are scarcer in the winter month skunks will fill up by eating fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Skunks aren’t really fussy about what type of fruit and veg they eat, yet leafy greens are often a favorite. Fruit and veg keep skunks healthy by providing them with nutrients and vitamins as well as a good source of fiber.
As skunks aren’t great climbers they’ll opt for crops that are ground level. Usually, this means root vegetables and berries. They can access other fruit which has fallen off of trees.
Nuts are a great source of fats and proteins for skunks during the winter. They seem to enjoy hickory, pecan, and walnuts.
7. Vegetation, grains & fungi
Skunks like quite a variety of vegetation as part of their diet. They will happily feast on leaves, buds, grasses, and grains.
Skunks can cause a lot of damage to plants in your yard when they are foraging around.
It’s thought that skunks eat a lot of vegetation as an easy way to get to the insects that are covering the plants or leaves.
As skunks forage a lot on the forest floor or near water, they come across a lot of fungi to eat. Fungi is rich in vitamins and minerals which keep the skunks healthy.
Skunks are scavengers that are known to eat carrion, which is the flesh of dead animals. These will be animals killed by larger predators or even roadkill.
By eating carrion the skunks help to break down the decaying animal and recycle nutrients back into the ecosystem. The meat provides a good source of protein for the skunk that they would otherwise be unable to catch as prey themselves.
For humans, this helps to prevent the spread of disease or foul stench from rotten meat in the area.
Baby skunks (kits) will rely on their mother’s breast milk for the first 3 months of life. Mum will need to be available to feed the babies during this time, if she is killed or relocated the babies will starve.
After 3 months the female skunks will take the babies foraging with her at night. The mothers will teach them how to find good food sources. They will eat a diet quite rich in protein at first, but mainly foods, such as insects, that are easy to catch.
Young skunks are pretty independent once they are able to forage for themselves. After this time they no longer stay with the mother and will sleep and forage alone.
What do Skunks eat in Urban Areas?
In urban areas, there’s a lot of trash for homes. This is a nice mixture of foods and leftovers that smells like heaven to skunks. All those different foods are in one handy container that can be accessed by ripping a bag.
Skunks can easily get into trash bags and pull out any food scraps inside. They will also happily scoop up anything leftover from raccoons who have raided your trash first.
Skunks will eat pretty much any food they can find, and this can often be processed food which is not good for them. Sweet food seems to particularly attract skunks. That means trash bags full of cakes or candy wrappers are very attractive to skunks.
To stop skunks raiding your garbage you can use the same tips we recommend for stopping raccoons at your trash cans.
11. Birdseed & Pet food
An easy food source for skunks in your yard is food left out for other animals. This included bird seed and pet food in outdoor bowls.
Skunks really love to eat bird seed and sunflower seeds in particular. The great thing for skunks is that it often means there are birds and eggs around to forage for.
Skunks won’t get to feeders higher up but they can easily eat at ground or tray-style feeders you put out for birds.
Dog and cat food in outdoor bowls is easy for a skunk to eat. You may want to take these bowls indoors at night to stop the skunks from eating these. This is particularly important if your pets are free-roaming. A pet is likely to get a good spray from a skunk if they are threatened in your yard.
Do Skunks eat fish?
Skunks do eat fish if they get the opportunity to. Although they mainly eat land-based foods. Skunks can get easy access to fish in shallow yard ponds. That means that your prized fish can become a meal for a hungry skunk.
The best way to stop a skunk from eating your pond fish is to keep a netted area over the top so they can’t access the water during the night.
Do Skunks eat small animals?
Skunks have been known to eat small animals such as squirrels and young rabbits. Although this is quite rare and they don’t actively go hunting for these animals.
You may be wondering if that means a skunk will eat a small cat or a dog. Skunks normally won’t eat pets. Yet they can become frightened by pets and attack them. Although skunks won’t kill pets they can cause serious injury, plus they are likely to make them smell bad too.
To wrap up, you now know that skunks have an extremely varied diet. In the summer skunks mainly eat insects. Then in the winter months, they’ll eat a mix of protein sources from small animals as well as fruits and vegetation.
Skunks are opportunistic eaters and need to adapt to their environment and season to eat what is available for them.
This often means skunks will eat food that isn’t intended for them in backyards. The three things that will attract them are birdseed, pet food, and trash. Try to keep these food sources out of the skunks’ reach as they are not nutritionally beneficial for them. Also, you don’t want to encourage skunks to come into your yard and damage your landscaping.