What Do Skunks Eat: [Complete Guide]

Skunks are pretty well-known creatures throughout the animal kingdom. They are also known by most home and building owners for emitting an intolerable stench.

This is usually something that they’ll do when they are startled or in fear of their life. Dealing with such a nuisance on your property isn’t any fun.

And, if you want to learn to properly eliminate such threats or prevent them in the first place, you’re going to need to know everything that you possibly can about the skunk as a species.

This article will start with the appetite, and here is a quick assessment that will get explained in further detail later.

Skunks are very adaptable when it comes to appetite, as they would be classified as an omnivore. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t have their preferences and favorites.

This isn’t the case at all an among some of their favorites are small prey and insects. Plants are usually only an option when food is scarce, but they certainly aren’t strangers for diving into garbage cans either.

Heck, you might even find them in the trash during the summer months because when food is abundant and present they like to take advantage. They’ll more than gladly fatten themselves up in preparation for the coming winter.

What Skunks Eat

Skunks obviously aren’t too picky when it comes to appetite. You learned earlier that they are omnivores, which means they can eat both plants and meats. However, it should be noted that they do have some scavenger tendencies as well.

This only adds to their adaptability. At the end of the day, it really comes down to availability and season. They are opportune eaters and will pounce on any opportunity that presents itself.

They have to when you think about it because they aren’t fighters. In fact, they have a hard time defending themselves against other animals that view them as predators.

Sure, they have their self-defense spray, but when it comes to physical fighting, they just simply lack the proper mechanisms and mechanics.

Given this diminished asset, the skunk has to be an opportune eater with a relatively simple diet. They’ll eat small insects and such, but they’ll never take on anything that they have to physically attack and kill to eat.

If the skunk can’t find smaller, weaker prey or other reliable food sources, they will oftentimes look for plants and other edibles to sustain them and their family.

Skunks And Small Prey

What Do Skunks Eat

You learned earlier that small prey was one of the skunk’s favorite foods. This is true and it kind of makes the skunk beneficial in many ways. Sure, they give off the undying stench that you’ll likely never get out of your clothes, but they do their fair share of killing off other troublesome critters.

They tend to prey on smaller creatures that would be a major hindrance to anyone with a garden. Believe it or not, there are times when the skunk will even eat smaller prey that could be life-threatening to the human.

Before you write the skunk off as just another one of nature’s pesky and smelly nuisances, you should consider how it might be beneficial to have them around.

Here is a quick rundown of some of the smaller insects and prey that skunks will feed on: snakes, cockroaches, grasshopper, crickets, beetles, beetle larvae, spiders (including the black widow), fish, scorpions, rabbits, mice, voles, moles, ground-nesting birds, small reptiles, small amphibians like frogs, toads, and newts, water snakes, bees, and a list of other small animals.

Along with this, the skunk is a major predator to the honeybee. This is probably pretty comforting to anyone with deadly honeybee allergies.

It is their thick tuft of fur located on their bodies that allows them to tackle the insect. They are capable of sustaining stings without really even feeling them.

In fact, they’ll walk right up to a hive and start scratching at it with their claws. When the bees come out they will just simply eat them up.

Skunks And Winter Months

Winter is obviously a treacherous time for most animals in the animal kingdom. In most places of the world, the food sources not only level off, but the temperature gets to below freezing.

While most animals don’t have a problem adapting, there are some that do. The skunk is not a hibernator, so it has no choice but to adapt to the winter weather and conditions. You learned earlier that one of the ways they do this is by fattening themselves up before the winter.

Indeed it true that they don’t hibernate, but they don’t like to leave the nest either. They usually try not to leave the nest unless it is 30 degrees F or above outside. And, if they do have to leave, it’ll likely be only at night to forage for a viable food source.

When possible they might forage from some of the following: insects, frogs, toads, birds, eggs, earthworms, grubs, snakes, berries, edible leaves, nutritious grasses, plant roots, and nuts.

[Related Article: Do Skunks Hibernate?]

Skunks And Vegetation

What Do Skunks Eat


You already know that skunks are classified as omnivores. This means that they possess the ability to survive by eating both animals and plants. Although most plants are not their preferred meal, they will eat them when they have to.

The plant-based diet is one that the skunk will adapt to when food is limited.

It was also mentioned that plants are opportune eaters and poor fighters. They usually like to take the easiest approach when it comes to food.

If their favorites are not easily or readily accessible, you best guarantee that they won’t think twice about snacking on plants. When comes have to eat plants and other similarly related substances, they’ll usually go after corn, grapes, cherries, berries, seeds, nuts, plant parts, and plant roots.

Interestingly enough, it is the roots along with the fruits of the plants that are the skunk’s favorite part of a plant-based diet.

This could have something to do with the fact that they are the best tasting parts or it could have to do with the fact that these items are always usually located at ground level, making them much more accessible than the rest of the plant.

Skunk Dining In Urban Settings

Just like many other creatures, when the skunk can’t find a suitable food source in the wild, they’ll have no option but to see out urban environments.

So, if you see a skunk in or around your yard, it is likely because they are foraging for food.

They’ll come after your plants, first and foremost, but they certainly won’t be too good to get in your garbage either if the opportunity clearly presents itself. This is when skunks can become a real nuisance for homeowners.

Skunks Feasting On Garbage


That’s right, they won’t hesitate to pounce on your garbage cans. While it might sound unappealing to you, it might be the last resort for the skunk. However, one of the reasons that they go after garbage is not to actually procure leftovers.

This is not to say they won’t eat leftover food because they obviously will.

This is just to say that the main reason they hit the garbage cans in urban settings is that this is a known hangout for other smaller insects.

You might see it as a good thing is a skunk can’t find what he is seeking in your garbage. However, this is not necessarily the case. For one, he’ll likely have already made a mess.

Secondly, he isn’t going to give up. If he can’t find food in the garbage, he’ll hit up your bird feeders, compost piles, or grills. This only makes the skunk more of a nuisance and threat.

Skunks are also creatures of habit. This means that if they are successful at raiding your garbage, bird feeders, compost piles, or grills, you can rest assured that they’ll likely return. This is especially true during those winter months when food is already scarce.

The Changing Of The Diet

Skunks like most omnivores generally prefer meats and animals over plants.

However, believe it or not, this is something that can change. During the spring and summer months when they are available, the skunk will fill their bellies on grasshoppers, bees, beetles, beetle larvae, crickets, and a variety of other smaller insects.

They won’t likely go near any plant-based food sources during this time.

As winter nears, the skunk will start to change his routine, even if insects are still readily available. This is not to say that he won’t eat insects, but he’ll go for the plants first and save the insects as a sort of filler to help fatten him for the coming winter months.

Skunks have to adopt these eating patterns because they don’t fully hibernate during the winter.


Most people see the skunk as a nuisance. And, it is true that they can be somewhat of a nuisance. This is especially true if they are digging around your garbage and yard.

However, you can also see that they can be a viable and productive member of the ecosystem, killing off certain threats to the human. With their ability and propensity to kill honeybees and snakes, you might want to think twice before you chase away that skunk in your yard.

Brian Koller

Growing up on a farm in eastern PA, I’ve grown fond of wildlife and the woods and learning about the critters and firewood and everything else in-between. I made this site to share my experiences and knowledge.

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