Of the many animals we consider varmints, the skunk is a species that stands out for its stink. This common small mammal thrives in part because of its ability to ward off potential predators with a raise of the tail, and in part because it has a very broad diet that can cause drama at our doorsteps. They dig under buildings, get into garbage cans, tear up lawns in their search for grubs, and even destroy beehives as they gather dinner. However, as much as we might love to hate these smelly critters, we have to admit that they are not only pretty cute but also helpful and important to ecosystems.
First, skunks do an amazing job at helping to keep insect populations in check, insects like grasshoppers, beetles, crickets and wasps. Skunks dine on these insects and help keep their numbers under control. They also eat vegetation like fruits and berries, which assists with the spread of seeds as well as the cleanup of piles of rotting fruits. Skunks are one of the best examples of how an animal we really want to avoid is actually one we want to keep around.