Picture of a skunk - what do they eat?

What Do Skunks Eat? The Answer May Surprise You

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Did you know that the average skunk can live up to 15 years in captivity? However, they only survive about two to three years in the wild. But what do skunks eat, whether they’re in the wild or captivity?

If you’ve been curious to know what skunks eat (or if you’re curious about what skunk poop looks like), we’re here to help. Read on to learn more about the varied diets of these omnivorous scavengers.

What Do Skunks Eat?

Skunks are omnivorous, meaning they eat both flora and fauna. They’re also avid scavengers that will happily find their way into any trash to eat what they can find. Here is a list of the animals they tend to eat:

Small mammals such as mice, chipmunks, rats, and squirrels

  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Reptiles
  • Frogs and salamanders
  • Worms
  • Any carrion
  • Small birds
  • A variety of insects

This is far from the limit of their diet. You can also find skunks eating:

  • Honey
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Most fruits or vegetables
  • Fungi and leaves
  • Pet food
  • Anything they can find in the trash!

What Are Skunks?

Skunks are small black and white mammals famous for their pungent stench. As a defense mechanism, skunks can give off a potent aroma with glands that excrete a noxious liquid. While not fatal, this liquid is foul-smelling enough to make any predator take pause.

How Do Skunks Hunt?

Skunks hunt as most small mammals do. They’re mostly active at night, making it easy to sneak up on smaller prey. They aren’t quite as fast as some of their prey, like birds or mice, but can easily take them down if they catch them off guard. They’ll often steal eggs from a nest, and if you have an outdoor pet, they’ll likely steal their food!

In popular culture, skunks are mostly known for their coloration and dumpster-diving ways. If you have skunks nearby, secure your trash bins or expect them to break in! Much of their diet is made up of scavenging from trash or carrion.

How Much Does a Skunk Eat?

Skunks eat for much of their day. They’ll take in about a pound of food each day in the wild, spending most of their time searching for that food. In captivity, skunks are often fed about 3 pounds of food.

What Eats Skunks?

Now that you know what skunks eat, you might wonder what eats them.

Skunks have several natural predators. For example, birds of prey like hawks and eagles will often swoop in to take a skunk away. It’s also far from uncommon for cats and dogs – both domestic and wild – to take down a skunk for sport or a meal.

Skunks are mostly active at night to avoid daytime predators. There are still several nocturnal predators that can seek them out, such as some large owls or snakes.

Tips from Our Vets

Though it may seem weird to try to identify different animals’ feces, there are many cases where you may need to do exactly that.

Many home and property owners come across animal feces and are concerned about what animals may be lurking. Being able to identify the feces that wildlife and rodents leave behind will not only let you know what animals are in the area, but also can give clues as to how many of them are present.

At first, it can be distressing to find foreign looking animal feces in your home or on your property. Fears of aggressive or rabid animals, as well as the diseases they may carry are often the first worries.

Protecting your family and pets is of utmost importance. However, taking the time to correctly identify the feces is essential in assessing the threat or risk from the animals.

This research will also enable a home or property owner to devise an effective strategy for keeping any pest animals out of their homes, barns, or other areas where they are not welcome.

Scat Identification Techniques

  1. The first thing to do if you come across scat, or feces from animals, is to observe the location of the droppings. Notice where the feces are in relation to buildings, other structures, other animals, water, roads, and vegetation. Different animals will place their droppings in particular locations and this can be the first clue to identifying them.
  2. Next, observe the placement of the scat. Are the feces hidden or buried? Are they randomly dropped all over an area with seemingly little regard for placement, or are they tucked away in corners or neat piles? These factors can greatly narrow down the list of possible culprits.
  3. Note the size of the scat. If you are investigating feces found in your home or on your property, it is a good idea to obtain a ruler or tape measure that you can use to measure. Some animals’ feces may look identical to others from the same family, and size may be the only distinguishing feature. *REMEMEBR: animal feces can carry both diseases and parasites so they should never be handled without gloves.*
  4. What is the shape of the found fecal matter? Some shape characteristics to look for include if the feces are round, tapered at the ends, completely tubular, round pellets, twisted, or moist mounds.
  5. An additional clue to the species of animal leaving the scat is what is included in the feces. Berries, hair, seeds, and plant parts should all be looked for in the droppings. This information can be used to identify the animal that left it.
  6. Lastly, look around the area where you first identified the scat. In cases of feces from animals that have similar appearing feces to another species, it can be helpful to search for nearby footprints or tracks left by the animals. This can be used to confirm species.

Scavenging for More

Many people hesitate around skunks because of their stinky reputation, but they’re mostly harmless. If you spot one, keep a good distance to avoid spooking it, getting clawed, or getting sprayed. Make sure that your trash bins are secure, or the skunks will come back night after night to eat your trash!

If you’d like to learn more about your favorite animals, be sure to browse our website for more informative read-ups!

If you’re looking for more information on animal diets, we created a guide to human foods dogs can and can’t eat, and you can also check out our resources on the diets of various animals below:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.