Where Do Skunks Go in the Winter?

Written by Nixza Gonzalez
Published: December 12, 2022
Share on:


Skunks aren’t like other mammals. They don’t fall into a deep hibernation slumber each year. Skunks are nocturnal animals that sleep in dens and hunt for insects and larvae by digging. They are found all over North America.

These small animals live 2-4 years in the wild and have long black and white fur with sharp claws for digging. Skunks create dens near a water source. Usually, they look for abandoned dens and burrows or hunker down under homes and porches.

Skunks are sweet animals, but they produce an awful smell that sprays out as a defense mechanism. During winter, their habits change. Keep reading to find out where skunks go in the winter and how they survive the harsh icy weather!

Only The Top 1% Can Ace our Animal Quizzes

Think You Can?

How Do Skunks Survive Winter?

Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) on a path

Skunks cover their burrow’s entrance with sticks, grass, and leaves to keep the cold air out.

©Geoffrey Kuchera/Shutterstock.com

Skunks don’t go far during the winter. They also don’t deeply hibernate; instead, they slow their movements and burrow in small groups in warm dens. Right before winter, skunks eat a lot of food, which converts into fat. This keeps them warm and alive while the outside temperature drops. Male skunks bunk together in dens but aren’t tolerant of each other in spring, especially during mating season. Skunks cover their burrow’s entrance with sticks, grass, and leaves to keep the cold air out.

Not all skunks stay in the same den. In preparation for winter, skunks look for a new den to create. Typically, where they stay for winter and care for their young are different. After snuggling in their den, they enter a state of torpor, where mobility is low. They sleep deeply but wake up from time to time. During this state, their bodies can drop 20 degrees as their metabolism slows down.

Do Skunks Come Back to the Same Place Every Year?

Skunks sometimes reuse the same den every year, but they prefer having multiple for different seasons. When skunks establish a den, they move less than two miles away from it. Skunks live in the same area, which is by a water source. Although they usually live in wooded areas, you can also find them in rural locations. Skunks actively dig for food but are opportunists and are attracted to garbage and wander into neighborhoods.

What Do Wild Skunks Eat in the Winter?

What Do Skunks Eat
Skunks eat various foods, including fruits, nuts, and insects.

Skunks eat various foods, including fruits, nuts, and insects. They are diggers, but during winter, their supply of food lowers. Instead of hunting daily, they rest in dens until it is warm and safe enough to leave. Skunks that live in warm regions of North America, like Florida, don’t sleep deeply during winter and forage as they normally would. However, wild skunks in cold northern regions come out temporarily when the weather is warm enough to look for food. During this time, they aren’t picky ears.

You might spot a wild skunk foraging and digging in the ground for nuts and fallen berries. When meat is available, they hunt small rodents like mice, moles, and chipmunks. Wild skunks aren’t just limited to berries; they consume other vegetables and fruits. It’s also not uncommon to see a wild skunk feasting inside garbage cans and dumpsters in communities. Before winter, they eat fatty foods like fish, birds, eggs, and small reptiles. If available, they also attack honeybee hives.

Do Skunks Make Good Pets?

Baby skunk - skunk in hand

Skunks require a special and balanced diet with high-fat meats like fish, fresh nuts, and berries.

©Becky Sheridan/Shutterstock.com

Wild skunks are not good pets, nor should they be treated as such. As adorable as they are, wild skunks carry diseases. Contact a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator if you ever encounter a hurt skunk in the wild. You can also reach out to your local animal control department, and they can point you in the right direction.

While wild skunks are not ideal pets, domestic skunks are great if you have patience, time, and space. Caring for a skunk as a pet is a lot of responsibility. Skunks require a special and balanced diet with high-fat meats like fish, fresh nuts, and berries. They can’t digest highly processed foods. Domestic skunks also need a lot of stimulation. They have been bred in captivity for over sixty years and are very cuddly.

Pet skunks love to play, and you can sleep train them so they sleep at night, unlike wild skunks that are nocturnal. You can’t own a skunk everywhere, though. It’s only legal in 17 states, so check your local rules and regulations before adopting a pet skunk. Domestic skunks cannot live in the wild and are an easy target for predators in the wild.

Up Next:

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Agnieszka Bacal/Shutterstock.com

Share on:
About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. , Available here: https://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/mammals/skunks#:~:text=While%20not%20true%20hibernators%2C%20skunks,and%20emerge%20during%20warm%20spells.