Food and weight.

Nutrition

The natural diet of the striped skunk consists largely of rodents, insects, vegetables and a little fruit. On the proper way to feed domestic skunks, opinions range widely. Since there are more roads that lead to Rome, there are different diets for skunks. Whether one feeds them raw meat or kibble, it is important that the diet exists of approximately 40 to 50% protein, 10% fiber, 40% carbohydrates and 10% fat. If one provides them dog kibble or cooked meat calcium and taurine has to be added to the diet. If raw meat with bone and all is provided than it is not nescesary to give them taurine and calcium as it is allready in raw meat and bones. Cats kibble can cause kidney and liver problems. Raw meat can be given with bone and all can include; day-old chicks, chicken, turkey, beef or beef heart. If the meat is cooked then the bones must be removed. Cooked bones splinter in the stomach and can cause stomach and intestinal perforations. Most skunks also like mice and insects such as mealworms, superworms, crickets and grasshoppers.

How much to feed

How much do you need to feed a skunk? This is a frequently asked question but has no standard answer. Each skunk is different. First there are the differences in size (length), activity and age. You need also take into account that skunks that are kept outside need to be able to build up a fat reserve to get through the winter safely. The amount of food should be adjusted to the individual skunk. The skunk must be weighed regularly. The weight schedule is useful to determine if a skunk needs to gain or needs to lose weight and thus more or less food should be given. Measuring is knowing ... Skunk kits have a need for several meals a day. This to prevent seizures caused by low blood sugar levels. Skunks suckle with their mum until they are 8 weeks old. Not untill the age of 8 weeks will they completely solid food. This should also be the minimum age when they can be separated from the mother. Unfortunately it happens all too often that they are much younger when separated from the mother to be sold... Skunk kits at the age of 4 weeks even need to be fed 4 or 5 times a day with artificial milk. At the age of eight weeks a puppy eats solid food offered in 4 or 5 meals a day. This can be reduced so that when they are 15 weeks only eat 2 meals a day. Adult skunks often eat only once a day. Click here to download the manual on infant skunk care.

 

Digestive tract

Skunks are members of the order of Carnivora (carnivores). Within this order also herbivores are found (eg Giant panda, Kinkajou). The skunk has a diet that's in between these vegetarians and the more strict meateters such as cats and ferrets. The skunks digestive tract has been more adapted to an omnivorous diet than most carnivores. The dentures af an adult skunk in the upper jaw (as well as left and right) are composed of 3 incisors, 1 canine, 3 premolars and 1 molar. The lower jaw has 3 incisors, 1 canine, 3 premolars and 2 molars. The skunks molars fit together like Lego blocks and therefore adapted to crushing food. In ferrets and cats the molars slide alongside each other like a pair of scissors, an adaptation for cutting meat. The intestines of a skunk are for a carnivore longer than usual, about 6 to 7 times it's body length (compare; ferret or cat 4 to 5 times it's body length). The food has a longer way to travel in which the the amylase from the pancreas can do better in breaking down the carbohydrates from the eaten plantmatter.

Weight

Skunks are naturally predisposed to build up a fat reserve to withstand times of cold and food scarcity. Skunks that are kept indoors throughout the year do not require fat deposits and their weight should be monitored. Outdoor skunks that sleep outside in winter enter a resting phase. They are not very active and eat much less and less frequent. These skunks should be able to build up a fat reserve to get through the winter well. For the North and Middle European climate an increase of the total weight by about 30-50% from August is desired. In late February when the skunks are becoming more active, the bodyfat should have been reduced by most of it.

In the diagram above the length is measured from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail allong the back of the skunk.

Green

The green color indicates the weight that a skunk may have from August through February during winterrest. Of course in February, the skunk isn't on the maximum weight but rather toward the lower limit of the green.

Blue

The blue color indicates the weight for skunks which kept indoors throughout the year and the weight of outdoor kept skunks from March to July.

References

Food Intake, Weight Changes and Activity of Confined Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) in Winter M. Aleksiuk and A.P. Stewart

Evaluating body condition of striped skunks using non-invasive morphometric indices and bioelectrical impedance analysis Y.T. Hwang, S. Larieviére and F. Messier

Nutrition and Behavior of Striped Skunks J.W. Dragoo

The Biology of the Striped Skunk B.J. Verts

Care, Management and Biology of Captive Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) J. Wade-Smith and M.E. Richmond

Husbandry, Overwinter Care and Reproduction of Captive Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) S. Lariviére, Y.T. Hwang, W.A. Gorsuch and S. A. Medill

Exposure Factors for Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) University of California