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Do skunks hibernate in the winter?

The striped skunks are known not to hibernate, but in the winter they can slow down their activities. When it is too cold to go outside, they stay inside the dens and they will sleep a lot, eat a little and are inactive. They enter into the state called torpor, and this is the state where the body temperature will lower along with the metabolism. Breathing may also slow down, but it does not reach the level of hibernation.

In such a period, the skunk will wake up from time to time. If the weather is over 30 degrees Fahrenheit, it can leave the den for some time for nighttime foraging. They will eat a little bit, but the normal food is hard to get during the winter period.

When they can get food, the skunk will eat snakes, frogs, earthworms and insects. They can also look for nuts, grasses, leaves, roots and berries. There is also the garbage that is still available even in the winter. Their diet is what will give trouble to people since they will look for food in lawns or even roll back the sod while looking for worms, grubs or roots.

The den of the skunk is most of the time an underground burrow and it has at least 5 openings. The skunk may live in a fox or groundhog burrow on their own. The skunk can live in a hollow log or under a building, porch or deck. Inside a den, there are at least three separate chambers and one will be used like a nest.

The skunks will be re-using the winter dens. Skunks are solitary animals, but during the winter the females may stay together with up to 12 for a den. Sometimes the males can den alone or join the females. When there is shared body heat, the skunks will be able to survive all winter. Winter denning and the mix of waking and sleeping can take around 100 days, and then it is spring mating time. The skunks will continue to be active up to the time that the first hard frost has passed.

During summer, it is easy to know that there has been a skunk around. But when it is winter, then the skunks will make themselves scarce and they will keep away from the snow and ice. Contrary to the birds or rodents that are known to hoard the food for the cold months, a striped skunk will spend time trying to eat as much as it can in order to stay warm in the mid-winter dormancy. This binge eating will create a thick layer of fat under the skin with a winter jacket. The striped skunk will have different dens at different times of the year. This means that the winter burrow is not the one that will be used in raising the babies. Even if the skunk is capable of digging its own burrow, it will turn most of the time to the burrows that belong to other animals. It will also find more comfort under decks and porches.

You may also want to read:

  • Do skunks burrow underground?
  • Why do skunks dig?
  • Do skunks climb?
  • Do skunks climb trees or live in trees?
  • Do skunks fight each other?
  • Do skunks come out during the day?
  • Do skunks shed their fur?
  • Do skunks swim?
  • Where do skunks live?
  • Why do skunks have a white stripe?

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