In the animal kingdom, hibernation is a common method for surviving the winter. However, skunks are among the few mammals that do not hibernate. Skunks are nocturnal animals, meaning they prefer to be active at night. While skunks may not hibernate, they enter a state of estivation during the winter months. This is similar to how humans go into a trance-like sleep called hypnosis or undergo anesthesia while in surgery. Estivation equals a pause or break in life during which they slow their metabolism and lower their body temperatures to survive the winter.
Why do animals hibernate at all?
Skunks are active all year round, even in the coldest weather. Hibernation is a survival strategy used by some animals to cope with scarce food or extreme cold periods. During hibernation, an animal’s body temperature and metabolism drop sharply, and the animal becomes dormant. Skunks do not undergo this type of dormancy; they maintain a relatively constant body temperature and activity level throughout the year.
There are two main reasons why skunks don’t hibernate. First, skunks can find enough food to sustain them even in winter. They are opportunistic eaters and will consume a variety of plant and animal matter, including insects, small rodents, and fruits and berries. Second, skunks have a thick coat of fur that helps keep them warm in cold weather.
While skunks don’t hibernate, they do sometimes den up in winter. This is usually done in groups, with multiple skunks taking refuge in the same burrow or den. Dens are typically located in areas with good drainage and plenty of food sources nearby. Skunks will also use dens as safe places to give birth and raise their young.
Skunk life cycle
Understanding the skunk’s life cycle is essential for knowing when and where you are most likely to encounter one. Skunks typically mate in late February or early March. After a gestation period of about two months, the female skunk will give birth to a litter of four to eight kits. The kits are born blind and deaf, but they grow quickly, gaining their sight and hearing within a few weeks. The young skunks are fully developed and ready to strike out independently by late summer.
Skunks are most active at night, but they can often be seen during the day, especially during the warmer spring or summer months when they search for food to sustain them through winter. If you do encounter a skunk, it’s important to remember that they are wild animals and should not be approached or touched. Skunks can be aggressive if they feel threatened, and they are also known to carry diseases like rabies. So should you see a skunk acting strangely, it’s best to contact your local animal control or wildlife agency for assistance. As they can damage your property, it is best to discourage them from making your garden their habitat!
If you want to learn more about skunks, please check out our previous post about what skunks eat.