Are Skunks Nocturnal? Must-Know Facts On Smelly Skunks For Kids

Tanya Parkhi
Feb 01, 2023 By Tanya Parkhi
Originally Published on Oct 20, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Striped skunk.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.3 Min

Skunks are small black-and-white animals found in North and South America that are known for digging into the earth and spraying a foul odor when they are threatened.

Skunks possess two glands near their tail, which can spray a foul scent. This mechanism is actually an evolutionary trait and is a form of self-defense against other nocturnal predators.

During the day, you are unlikely to spot skunks anywhere because they take refuge in underground burrows or dens during the day. They come out after dark in order to hunt for food in order to supplement their omnivorous diet and roam about. They are shy, unassuming creatures and will not approach humans. Though not aggressive, they will fight back if threatened and the foul scent they release in retaliation to danger can be smelt for miles! The most common skunks found in America are the striped skunk and spotted skunk, of which there are a few species.

If you enjoyed this article, don't forget to check out some other great pages such as striped skunk facts and how far can a skunk spray.

Is it normal for a skunk to be out during the day?

No, skunks are nocturnal in nature, which means that they sleep during the day and are active at night. Skunks usually spend their day sleeping in dens or burrows below the ground, and they come out between early evening and dawn to hunt for food.

They follow an omnivorous diet and will mostly feed on insects and fruits, vegetables, beetles, and worms and will occasionally catch chickens, mice, rats, moles, squirrels as well as feed on any eggs they find. Skunks are also rarely seen during the winter, however, they do not hibernate. They merely spend most of their time underground, occasionally leaving the den in search of food during warm spells. During this time, they survive off fat stores in their bodies.

Do skunks sleep at night?

No, skunks tend to sleep during the day unlike most other creatures, and are active at night. They spend the day in dens which are basically in tree hollows, under sheds, porches, and other older structures.

If they are unable to find shelter, they build their own underground holes. Their burrows are typically within a 2 mi (3.2 km) radius of any water source, as they prefer not to travel too far from their homes in search of food and water. During winter, these normally solitary animals will come together and huddle in a single den in order to conserve warmth, with almost 20 skunks gathering together at a time!

Little Skunks on a Log.

How are skunks adapted to being nocturnal?

The foul stench which skunks are famous for spraying when they are in danger is actually an evolutionary trait caused by their nocturnal nature! For most small rodents during the day, the biggest threat comes from carnivorous birds such as eagles and falcons that swoop from the air and carry them away. These animals often travel about in herds and develop signals in order to warn each other of impending danger.

Skunks on the other hand are nocturnal and solitary in their endeavors and are more vulnerable to terrestrial attackers as most carnivorous birds are inactive at night. As a result of this, they developed a foul spraying mechanism that helps to stun predators in an instant and protect them. Their black and white fur helps them to move around without being spotted easily in the dark. However, they can still fall prey to nocturnal predators such as the great horned owl, which is immune to the skunk's spraying mechanism.

A skunk's stench is no joke, and in the unfortunate event that you or your dog get sprayed by a skunk, there are a number of measures you will have to take in order to get rid of the foul smell, as soap and water will not put a dent in the stink! Though it is advised to bathe in tomato juice, this does not help to get rid of the smell entirely and only masks it. A solution of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide is more likely to do the trick and will banish the smell for good.

Their stripes are also a sort of protective measure, and skunks tend to do a sort of warning dance in order to scare predators away. The spotted skunk also has an acrobatic dance in which it may spring into a handstand with its tail in the air in an attempt to prevent using its scent. They may also stamp their feet and growl. Most skunks can only use their spray once until their glands reload which can take quite some time, which is why they only use it in necessary situations. The odor of their spray is also very potent, and has a wide range. It can be detected up to 1.5 mi (2.4 km) away once it is sprayed!

Are skunks aggressive?

No, skunks are not aggressive and will only spray if they feel like they are in danger or are being attacked. These nocturnal creatures like to keep to themselves and are quite good at staying out of the way. If threatened, they will lift their tail, stamp their feet, and growl in an attempt to intimidate their attackers before spraying. However, they will only do this as a means of self-defense and never as an attack.

Some people also own skunks as pets remove their stink glands to be on the safe side. These animals are quite cute, smart, and curious which can make them good pets. However, this is illegal in many places in North America as skunks have been found to carry rabies at a high rate.

Though they are usually quite helpful as they eat the larvae of pesky beetles and worms, they may end up uprooting gardens and eating fruits and vegetables from gardens while out and about at night, which is why they are labeled as pests. They can also spray curious pets such as dogs or cats wandering about after dark, which can cause them distress. They are also a menace to poultry houses as they attack chickens and eat their eggs because they are fond of meat. A larger number of skunks together may cause havoc to backyards and gardens in their quest for insects, which is why their population in urban areas must be kept under control. Using bright lights and sprinklers is a good way to keep them out of a vegetable garden or yard, without trapping or harming them.

Signs of skunk damage include cone-shaped holes in the ground and uprooted plants. If you do manage to trap a skunk, contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitator who will release them elsewhere.

As skunks are known carriers of rabies (which is fatal to humans), it is unwise to approach them in an attempt to befriend them. Skunks are wary animals and will not hesitate to spray or attack if they feel they are in danger. It is best to keep your distance. Unfortunately, as a measure to combat the spread of rabies, wildlife-control professionals will often hunt down skunks and kill them, even though they do not pose much danger to humans unless they are provoked.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Are skunks nocturnal? Must know facts on smelly skunks for kids then why not take a look at Are horses omnivores? Explore why eating grass is their favorite meal, or Are foxes nocturnal? Amazing hunting facts of wild animal for kids?

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Written by Tanya Parkhi

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya Parkhi picture

Tanya ParkhiBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya is a skilled content creator with a passion for writing and a love for exploring new cultures. With a degree in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune, India, Tanya worked on her writing skills by contributing to various editorials and publications. She has experience writing blogs, articles, and essays, covering a range of topics. Tanya's writing reflects her interest in travel and exploring local traditions. Her articles showcase her ability to engage readers and keep them interested.

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