Do skunks hibernate in winter? – the facts

Have you ever wondered what happens to skunks during winter and if they hibernate? Maybe you noticed one in the yard and avoided it as skunk spray is worse than a wild animal bite.

As time progresses and winter approaches, you wonder what happened to the skunk, and where did it go? Well, we have all the answers right here for you. But before we get to all the answers to your question, here is a quick answer to your question before we get into more detail.

Do skunks hibernate during winter? A fact is that this wildlife pest does not fully hibernate. The only thing that happens to them is that they go into a dormant state. The state is known as “Torpor.” The skunk’s metabolic rate and body temperature lessen, and they enter a lazy sleep.

However, do not think that the skunk’s not alert or inactive as it only happens for a short time during the day in winter. Occasionally, they do step outside the den to forage for food. On the other hand, this is where your problems start as they invade your property for shelter.

Furthermore, if there is one creature you don’t want to make your property their den, it is the skunk and if you have one it is time to take control of the situation.

So to help you understand the hibernation skunks and what do and not do you can find all the facts here.

Do Skunks Hibernate and Smell During Winter?

The skunk is an animal that you think hibernates, but they do and don’t at the same time. When winter arrives, the skunk enters into a dormant state called Torpor. The state usually keeps the animal both physically and mentally inactive.

When the temperature drops and food become scarce, the creature enters this dormant state. However, during the state, the skunks in a lazy sleep similar to the dormouse. In the state, they usually do not fall into a deep sleep like other creatures.

The only thing that happens is that the body temperature lowers, and the breathing and metabolism slow down as well. However, the creature does not become inactive and remains in this state for a short time during the day. The skunks stay in the cozy den and only step outside when the temperature rises above 30° F to eat.

skunk in wild picture

During the winter months, the skunks body temperature goes down to 20° only for a short time. However, it only happens for a little time to help build up the skunks strength to leave the dens to forage. The only time these wildlife pests become active is during the night and cause havoc with garbage bins if they cannot find food.

So if you do notice garbage cans tipped over you need to take control as these mammals can cause havoc. Even when they are in the burrow they can still stink when approached or threatened and do not want to be sprayed.

How Does the Skunk Prepare for Winter Months?

The skunk is nocturnal and does not stockpile food like squirrels. They go outside to forage insects during cold months. The only time they are active is when they leave their holes and need to gain weight. Before winter arrives, the striped skunk eats as much as they can to increase their weight.

With the added weight, it helps to build up layers of fat to keep them warm during the winter months. Not only does it help the skunks to stay warm, but it also helps when need to leave the den to forage for food as well. The creature can forage for food throughout winter until the holes snowed in.

Furthermore, during winter, skunks can block the burrow entryway on purpose with objects to protect them from the cold outside to control the temperature inside.

How Does Skunks Hibernate During Winter?

As the skunks are nocturnal going into a dormant state, they still need to stay warm and active to survive. The problem is that the skunks are lazy and do not build their dens like other creatures and look for dens left by other mammals.

They will find shelter in woodchuck, old fox dens, and more. Now you may be wondering and asking yourself, “When the skunks in wildlife can it not make their den, like other mammals?”

They can with their claws but prefer to use abandoned holes to take shelter. However, the skunks picky and will live in hard to find places.

You can find them under logs and piles of leaves, and the only way of finding them is the smell they leave behind. On the other hand, the skunks can make your garage, sheds, and deck their home for the winter. Why do they make your yard their hibernation place?

Your home has heating and provides them with the warmth needed to stay safe during the cold months. Not only does it help with the hibernation, but it also keeps them safe from predators as well and controls the heat for them to remain indoors.

How Do Skunk’s Survive Winter?

If you think you have winter skunks living on your premises, the likeliness is that there is more than one. You may have a group living together to keep warm.

The female striped skunks group together, and you can sometimes find up to twelve of these skunks in a den. The holes are called communal shelters, and you may even find babies there as well.

While male skunks tend to stay by themselves, you can find some grouping together for the winter. You will find the hibernation taking place from December to March.

What do they eat to survive the winter?

Similar to possums, the skunks dig, and their staple diet is grubs. During the winter months, foods are plentiful as it lays dormant in the ground.

The creature munches on roots to keep them safe during the cold months. However, this is not the only food source the skunks live on. You can find them eating worms, eggs, tiny creatures, snakes, and insects as well.

Skunks forage for roots, leaves, grass, berries, and nuts. Furthermore, there are times when food is scarce, and your property becomes the main attraction.

Here the skunk rummages through garbage and enjoys the last nibbles of pet food left on the porch.  Once the skunk finds they can easily find insects and other food, they move in to spend their hibernation during winter in your home.

Not only do skunks use different dens during the year, but they also return to them throughout the year when a food source is available.

Frequently Asked Questions

We hope that the above information helps to answer your question if skunks hibernate. Here we have some other FAQ about this mammal that may help you determine if the skunk has made your property their home for the winter.

How do I know I have skunks on my property?

When you see three to four-inch cone-shaped holes or upturned earth in the lawn these are signs you may have a communal den in your yard. You may even find holes where the skunk burrowed for insects to eat.

Another noticeable thing you will see is turned over trash cans with hind feet tracks of about two and a half inches long.

The mammal has five toes, and sometimes you will not notice the fifth one in the track. Furthermore, the skunk spray is another notable thing as they leave behind an odor when defending themselves against dogs or cats.

What type of behavior does the skunk have?

The skunk breeds in late February and older females have young during the first half of May. Yearling females have their young in June. The skunk can have up to 16 babies annually. The young remain with the females until the fall, and the mammal can live until they are ten years old.

Is having a skunk on your property a problem?

Yes, as the skunk can cause damage when burrowing under the building and entering foundation openings making it difficult to control them.

When you leave the trash can outdoors, you may find the mammal throwing it over. If you have beehives, you may also find the skunk feeding on the bees and not only insects.

Furthermore, they dig holes in the lawn to find insect grubs in the soil. On occasions, the skunk can carry rabies and best to not make contact with an aggressive skunk that approaches you without hesitation.

If you do find one on your property with abnormal behavior, we recommend you call the pest control services or contact the animal control authorities to manage and remove them.

Lastly, never get in the way of the skunk spray as it will take a while to remove the stench as people will not see you from a mile but smell you first.

How do I prevent other wildlife and skunks from entering my property?

To prevent wildlife from making your home their den seal all foundation openings under buildings. To prevent access to the garbage can fit it with tight-fitting lids and controls the rodents to help eliminate the food. Remove the debris from junk cars, fence posts, and lumber to prevent them from making a hole in it to hibernate the winter as it is a great place for insects as well. By taking some control measures you can prevent them from making your home their abode.

Final Thoughts

While the skunk is a fascinating creature, you must not mess with it. The biggest problem you will face when in the mammal’s way is the skunk spray. The creature can spray foul-smelling liquid up to fifteen feet even when hibernating. So instead of taking control of the problem, contact a pest control expert to deal with the situation. We hope you found the article interesting about how skunks hibernate, where, and when they go into hibernation.

 

Sources:

https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/98/3/867/3046415

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/hibernation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Striped_skunk