Virtually everyone knows about the foul-smelling defense system of skunks. But beyond that, what more do you know about skunks? Do you know whether they eat meat or not?
Do skunks eat meat?
Skunks are omnivorous animals, so they eat both meat and plants. They typically feast on insects, snakes, fishes, frogs, eggs, and small rodents.
Skunks consume more meat/animal matter than plant matter when the conditions allow it. But, in general, they have a huge appetite, so they eat whatever they can find.
As you may have guessed, there is more to a skunk’s diet than we summarized above. So, below, we compile a concise account of the meat diet of skunks. We answer questions like, “what meats do skunks eat” and much more.
Do Skunks Eat Meat?
Skunks do eat meat. Since skunks are omnivores, they eat both plants and animals. But they are more likely to eat meat/animal matter than plants. In fact, skunks usually only opt for plants when they cannot find animal matter.
That being said, skunks have a voracious appetite and a flexible diet, so they would eat anything edible they come across. Therefore, it should not surprise you when they try to raid your trash can.
Skunks have a seasonal and availability-dependent diet. In other words, what they eat primarily depends on availability or season.
In winter, most of the animals skunks feed on are unavailable. Some of these animals migrate, hibernate, or remain hidden to survive the harshness of winter. So skunks cannot hunt them as they usually do. At such times, skunks would turn to plant matter. They would feed on fruits, seeds, nuts, and you may even find them in your garbage.
In summer, the animals skunks prey on roam freely. So, meat is more available, and skunks feed on more animal matter during this time.
What Meat Do They Eat?
Skunks eat the meat of smaller animals. They feed on meat from animals like:
- Small Birds
Skunks typically avoid larger animals. They might be good fighters but are not quite skilled at hunting. So, for sure, they are no match for larger-sized animals, and they would prefer not to engage. In other words, skunks do not eat the meat of larger animals, including humans.
Besides avoiding larger animals for their safety, the meat and skin of larger animals can be too stringy for skunks. Trying to eat meat with this kind of texture can damage their teeth. Besides, their jaw cannot handle too much chewing. So, they prefer to go after smaller prey with ready-to-eat flesh.
Although skunks eat the meat of smaller animals, they can fall prey to some of their own targets. For one, rabid rabbits, black widows, and venomous snakes can hurt skunks in the same way skunks can hurt them.
Skunks do not spray their prey. They dislike the smell of their spray and wouldn’t want to eat something that smells like it. Instead of attacking their prey with their spray, skunks attack with sharp claws and teeth. These help them inflict damage by tearing their target into pieces.
Whenever they can, skunks prefer to eat high-fat food. This is especially true for captive skunks. Unfortunately, their gluttony and taste for high-fat food predispose them to obesity and other health issues.
If you have a skunk as a pet, avoid giving it processed meat. Processed meat messes with the hormonal and chemical stability of the immune and digestive systems of skunks. And this can cause diarrhea, constipation, allergic reactions, and much more.
You may be unable to feed your pet skunk meat from some of the animals above. But if you can provide fish, chicken, and red meat, these will suffice.
On average, pet skunks should get only around ¼ cup of meat per day. Since pet skunks do not get as much exercise as those in the wild, portion control is vital to keeping them healthy.
In summary, skunks eat the meat of small animals. Their diet consists primarily of insects, rodents, small birds, fish, small amphibians, and small reptiles.
Do Skunks Eat Other Skunks?
Skunks are not cannibals; they will not eat other skunks.
How Do Skunks Hunt for Food?
Skunks are nocturnal animals, so they hunt for food at night. They rely on their sense of smell and hearing to prey on their targets since their eyesight is poor.
The eyes of a skunk usually react only to changes in light intensity and motion. So skunks mainly try to detect their targets using their nose and ears instead.
Skunks can readily go after their prey once they detect them, thanks to their powerful forearms and claws. They can dig into the ground in search of burrowing animals and insects with ease.
Skunks are also pretty fast – reaching up to 10 mph at full speed. So, they can catch their prey with swiftness. But they rarely ever have to outmatch their targets with speed. Instead, they rely more on stealth.
Do Baby Skunks Eat Meat?
In the first 6 to 8 weeks of their existence, baby skunks (kits) do not eat meat. At birth, kits are blind and deaf, so they cannot hunt for themselves. Therefore, they rely on their mothers for nutrition.
Mother skunks breastfeed their kits exclusively for about 6 weeks. At around 6 weeks, the kits’ eyes and ears become functional. So, they will leave the den and start going out to hunt for various foods. Then at about 8 weeks (2 months), the mother skunk weans the kits completely.
After total weaning, kits start feeding primarily on what they hunt.
If you intend to take a baby skunk as a pet, you must feed it formula (something like Esbilac or KMR liquid) in the first 6 weeks of its life.
Do not try to give your baby skunk kitten or puppy feed. If you do, the kit may choke or suffer digestive issues.
After 6 weeks, you may gradually start adding adult skunk food to your kit’s diet.
Skunks are omnivores; they eat meat and plants. But they prefer meat over plants; they typically switch to eating plants only when meat/prey is scarce. For various reasons, skunks usually eat meat from smaller animals, avoiding larger-sized animals.
While adult skunks can eat both plant and animal matter, kits live the first 6 to 8 weeks of their lives on breastmilk from their mothers.