Prepping for the WinterSkunks are omnivores, meaning that they eat an assortment of meat and plant foods. They often dig for grubs and ground-dwelling insects, but they also consume frogs, snakes and birds’ eggs. If you leave your trash bin unsecured, they are happy to munch on the leftovers you just threw away. Skunks supplement animal sources with plants, grains, grasses and fruit. As the temperatures begin to drop, skunks start eating more of everything they can get their paws on. They pack on the pounds, storing the extra calories to help get them through the lean winter months. This extra fat allows them to survive when food sources are scarce, but it isn’t enough unless they change their behaviours as well.
Hunkering Down in the WinterSkunks do not hibernate. Hibernating animals are dormant for long periods throughout the winter. They may wake occasionally to seek out food, but they generally sleep for several days up to several months at a time. During this time, their metabolism slows way down, and their body temperatures drop. These biological changes dramatically reduce their caloric needs, allowing them to survive on the fat they’ve stored. Torpor is similar to hibernation, but the periods of dormancy don’t last as long. Skunks enter into a state of torpor. They are dormant for extended periods in a day, but they may be active for a short time. Though skunks are inactive in the winter, they may rouse from their dens during warmer weather to seek food.
Nesting With Others for WarmthSkunks are generally solitary creatures, except for females and their kits. However, when the temperatures turn south, they toss aside their preferences for living alone. Males frequently den together in groups. The extra bodies help them stay warm. In the fall, these animals begin their search for a place to hole up and nest for the winter. Your property may provide the perfect setting. Though skunks have claws made for digging, they prefer dens that have been abandoned by other animals or ready-made hideouts under porches or decks. Though you won’t likely see much activity during the winter months from any resident skunks, once they do become active again, they may decide to stick around for a while, particularly if it’s a mother and her kits. Look for evidence of a den, such as:
- Pawprints leading up to a potential den site
- A pile of leaves and grasses placed over an opening
- A musty odour around your deck or porch