Do skunks hibernate in winter? – the facts

Dave Campbell

Have you ever wondered what happens to skunks during winter and if they hibernate like many other animals? In the spring and summer, sightings of skunks are more common.

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 dig deeper into the topic, here is a quick answer to your question before we get into more detail.

The fact is that skunks don’t fully hibernate. Skunks spend much of the winter in a dormant state known as “Torpor.” The skunk’s metabolic rate and body temperature are reduced, and they enter a sleep like state.

However, do not think that the skunk’s not alert or inactive as this process 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 have a habit of trying to get into properties to shelter from cold weather and to keep warm. Check out my post on how to get rid of skunks.

Furthermore, if there is one creature you don’t want to make your property their winter home, 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 of skunks and what to do and not do, you can find all the facts here.

The habits of a skunk in colder months

The skunk is an animal that you think hibernates, but they do and don’t at the same time. When the colder months arrive, 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 becomes scarce, a skunk will enter a dormant state. However, the skunks go into lazy sleep similar to a dormouse. In this state, they usually do not fall into a deep sleep like other wildlife.

The skunk’s 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. Skunks stay in a winter den and only step outside when the temperature rises above 30° F in order to eat.

skunk in the wild picture

During the winter months, the skunk’s body temperature goes down to 20° only for a short time to help build up its strength to leave the dens to forage. Skunks become active during the night and can 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 problems around your property. If they are tipping over trash cans, the rotten food could attract rats and mice.

How Do Skunks Prepare for Winter Months?

The skunk is nocturnal and does not stockpile 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.

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.

Things skunks eat to survive

Similar to possums, 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.

They also 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 things to eat, they may move in to spend their hibernation in your home. During especially cold spells, skunks will be under more pressure to find entry points into a warm 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.

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 trying to deal with a skunk smell or other 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.




Dave Campbell

I'm Dave Campbell and the owner of You can read more about me and my background on my About Me page.

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