The main thing that most people know about Rochester skunks is that they can spray a foul odor when
they are feeling threatened, but there is so much more to know about these interesting creatures.
If you have skunks that live in your area, you may have noticed that you see them much more often
in the warmer spring and summer months. You may be wondering what skunks are up to in the cold winter
months. Do they actually hibernate as some other New York animals are known to do? Read on to find out more
about this animal's habits and to find the answer to the question.
What happens in winter?
During summer, it is easy to know when the skunk is around, but during the winter months, the animals are hard to see. They hunker down to wait out the snow and ice onslaught. Most New York birds and rodents usually hoard food to store it for the cold months. However, the skunk spends the fall eating away as much as it possibly can. This is aimed at keeping it warm once the winter dormancy starts. The binge eating allows the creation of thick fat layers just below the skin. It is this fat that is metabolized during the dormant rests but at a much slower rate than in the summer months. When it becomes colder, the Rochester skunk then prepares the den and it blocks off the entrance using grass and leaves to make sure that the air stays out.
Denning happens during winter, but New York skunks aren't inactive. The skunk falls dormant in the winter home that they make, but a state of hibernation isn't achieved. Skunks don't hibernate but are rather in a torpor state, which is a deep sleep that they can awake from occasionally.
As discussed above, Rochester skunks do not actually hibernate in the winter although they are much less active and tend to stay in their burrows much of the time. This is why most of the cases of skunk road kill occur in the warmer summer months, which does not help with the foul smell. So if you see a skunk in the winter, this does not necessarily mean that it is sick or disoriented. It is possible for New York skunks to wake from their deep sleep and make an appearance before going back into the den since they are not actually hibernating.
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