Skunks are known to invade residential areas, where they can be seen at various times of day and night. And while they’re recognized as nocturnal animals, many people wonder do skunks come out during the day, and if so – why?
Skunks are both nocturnal and crepuscular – they’re active during the night, dawn, and dusk. However, daytime activity isn’t impossible for skunks. A skunk can be active during the daytime if it’s looking for food or shelter.
The skunk’s behaviour and its connection to the time of day are more complex than just this, though, and many people think that skunks active throughout the day have rabies. In this article, we’ll learn more about skunk behaviour and rabies in skunks.
Do Skunks Come Out During the Day
Skunks are most often seen in the dawn and twilight, but the time for their activity isn’t set in stone. Let’s take a look.
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Are Skunks Nocturnal
Skunks are not diurnal animals, but they can’t be characterized as completely nocturnal either – they display a combination of crepuscular and nocturnal behaviour.
Crepuscular animals are most active during dawn and dusk. Aside from skunks; rabbits, rats, jaguars, bears, deer, and foxes are all crepuscular.
This, however, doesn’t apply to all skunks. Hooded skunks, for example, are more nocturnal than crepuscular. Striped skunks are mostly nocturnal as they spend the entire night looking for food.
And while skunks are most definitely not diurnal and reserve their energy for nighttime, you might still see a skunk wandering about during the day. This is perhaps even more common with skunks in residential areas as they’re disturbed by people and traffic.
Where Do Skunks Live During the Day
A skunk will spend its day in its den – this is the safest spot for it to rest and keep its energy levels up. They are mostly solitary animals that don’t normally share their dens, which makes territorial fights common. A skunk’s preference is to always protect its den from another skunk.
Despite this solitary behaviour, there are some recorded instances of communal dens. However, this only happens when it’s extremely cold, though, in order to keep one another warm.
Up to 12 skunks have been found in a single den in these conditions, with only a single male skunk.
During the winter, a skunk will spend days without leaving the den.
While they don’t hibernate in the true sense of the word, they minimize energy consumption by resting, rarely feeding, and lowering their body temperature significantly.
During the summer, skunks live in dens above the ground, but they retreat to underground dens during the winter. They make this change to protect themselves from snow, wind, and rain.
Is a Skunk Active During Daytime Rabid?
Skunks are predominantly nocturnal creatures and therefore spotting one in plain sight is uncommon. The University of Colorado advises taking caution if you encounter a skunk during the daytime especially if it seems aggressive as this could be an indicator that it may be rabid.
Here are a few things you should look out for.
Symptoms of Rabies in Skunks
Since skunks often invade populated areas, it’s important to know how to recognize symptoms of rabies. These symptoms don’t apply only to skunks, but to other animals as well.
The first one we’re going to mention is friendly and unafraid behaviour toward humans. To put it simply, wild animals avoid people like the plague and they won’t approach us in normal circumstances.
Even if you try taming a wild animal with food, you’ll see that it can take potentially hundreds of feedings before the animal lets you approach it.
The same applies to skunks – a healthy skunk won’t approach people. Quite the contrary – it will run whenever it sees you.
A rabid skunk, on the other hand, might approach you in an aggressive manner. Rabies causes extreme dehydration, which is why rabid animals are always on the lookout for water. At the same time, since rabies makes swallowing very difficult, it’s possible that the animal can’t drink water.
If you put down a bowl of water in front of you for a healthy skunk to drink from – the animal would never accept the offer. A rabid skunk, on the other hand, wouldn’t be able to resist. We, of course, don’t recommend that you conduct this experiment on your own.
Rabies is a bit of a chaotic disease when it comes to symptoms, and temporary paralysis of a limb (or limbs) is possible. If you see a skunk that’s using only three legs, it might have rabies.
It’s also possible that it simply got in a fight with another animal and is now suffering the consequences.
Seizures are very damning evidence of rabies – an animal might simply drop to the floor and start convulsing. If this happens, do not approach the animal at any cost – they might bite you and infect you.
Aggression and Self-Mutilation
Because of low serotonergic activity in the brain, rabid animals often become aggressive. This is actually good for the rabies virus as it spreads through bites (exactly like zombie movies), but it’s bad for anyone in the immediate vicinity of the infected animal.
Since skunks are already dangerous animals, even without rabies, you should most definitely stay away from them – even if they’re not displaying any sign of rabies.
If you get bitten by a skunk, you will need to visit the hospital immediately regardless of whether the pest is showing symptoms of rabies infection. Rabies disease is often lethal if not treated in a timely manner.
Animals rarely foam at the mouth like they do in the movies. What’s true, though, is that the rabies disease causes them to develop more saliva. This happens because the virus moves from the brain to the salivary glands.
A skunk that drools excessively should definitely be considered dangerous.
The rabies virus spreads through bites. The virus affects the salivary glands, and when the animal bites another animal, saliva enters the bloodstream of the new host.
The last thing you should remember is that rabid animals are desperate animals – they have difficulty swallowing (it can actually become impossible for them to drink water), so they lose a lot of weight in a short period of time.
Combined with all the other symptoms explained in this section, anorexia can be damning evidence that a skunk is rabid.
Why Would a Skunk Be Out During the Day?
If a skunk is seen outside during the day, it is likely with good reason and it doesn’t have to be rabid to do so. Here are a few of the most common reasons.
Looking for Food
The two biggest motivators of any animal are safety and food. Animals don’t think rationally and they can’t control their urges – a hungry skunk can’t tell itself “Wait for nightfall, then go look for food.”
If it’s hungry during the day, it will go out and look for food during the day.
Disturbed or Scared Out of Den
Another common reason for a skunk to wander around during the day is that it’s looking for a new den. The most common reason for den evacuation is lack of food or flooding – heavy rain can actually drown skunks.
However, they can also be scared out by other animals. Just as skunks are known to evict weaker animals from their dens, larger predators can scare skunks away from their dens.
There’s always a bigger fish, as they say.
Since skunks spend the day in their dens, they don’t have anything else to do other than look for a new den once they’re kicked out.
When this happens, they’re still sensitive because of what happened, so they’re easily agitated.
Travelling to Another Den
Skunks use more than one den during their lifetime. If winter is fast approaching, a skunk will travel to another den, maybe even inhabit it with other skunks to stay warm.
It can take days before the animal finds a good den to inhabit, so it’s not odd to see them wandering about during the day.
Scavenging Food for Their Litter
Before they’re old enough to hunt food on their own, infant skunks are fed by the mother. Mother skunk needs to get enough insects, grubs, and small mammals (such as mice) to feed the entire litter.
Maternity throws the entire idea of a set schedule out the window, and a mother skunk will spend endless hours looking for food. This leaves her pups unprotected and in a potentially dangerous position.
Do Skunks Pose a Threat
The big question that pops into everyone’s heads when they see a skunk – are skunks dangerous to us? The definitive answer is yes, and here’s why.
Risk of Disease
First of all, there’s no vaccine for the strain of rabies that affects skunks. This is why pet skunks need to be put down when they bite a person – that’s the only way they can get tested for rabies.
There are three variants of rabies in skunks in North America. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, skunks comprised 20.3% of all wild animal rabies cases in 2018.
Since rabies spreads through saliva – which usually enters the bloodstream through a bite, but also if it comes in contact with the eyes, mouth, or open wounds – it can easily be spread from a skunk to a person. All the skunk has to do is bite the person.
Rabies is an extremely dangerous virus. After developing symptoms, it’s impossible to save the patient – the virus is 100% lethal. However, if you seek medical assistance as soon as you were bitten, you have a 100% chance of surviving as the vaccine is 100% effective if given early.
Do Skunks Bite or Are They Aggressive
Even if they’re not infected with rabies, skunks are fairly confrontational animals. They have very powerful legs with strong claws and they can deal very harsh cuts with them.
Their jaws are strong and they’re equipped with powerful teeth, capable of breaking bones and tearing the flesh off.
On top of all that, they have anal scent glands that spray a liquid with a disgusting odour. If the spray comes in contact with the eyes, it can temporarily blind a person.
They can shoot this spray up to 10 feet!
They’re formidable fighters and they have very few natural predators because of that. Although they avoid people, just like all animals, they will fight vigorously if cornered or if you try to approach them.
On some level, skunks are aware of that, which is why they often invade populated areas.
Enjoyed this article? Here’s a link to another article all about skunk poop.
FAQs Are Skunks Nocturnal
What To Do If You See a Skunk During the Day?
Ignore it and let it pass or back away slowly if it shows signs of aggression such as raising its tail, stamping its feet, or standing on its rear legs. Skunks are unlikely to approach you and will most likely run away when they have a clear path to do so.
Why Would Baby Skunks Be Out During the Day?
They’re most likely looking for their mother. Mother skunks will leave their nests to look for food, and if they don’t return for a long time, the babies might go looking for them. Leave them be.
Do Skunks Come Out During the Day Final Thoughts
While it’s possible that daylight activity is actually erratic behaviour caused by rabies, it’s not definitive proof of that. A skunk might be active during the day because it’s hungry, evacuating a den, or looking for food for its babies.
Skunks are normally nocturnal and crepuscular, but they’re sometimes active during the day. Rabid skunks, on the other hand, are erratic, aggressive, thin, salivating, and often convulsing.
Avoid rabid skunks at all costs and call Animal Control – they pose a danger to you and all the people around you as rabies is a very dangerous disease.
Pennsylvania State University – Skunks – Solutions to Common Problems
The University of Colorado – Skunk Facts
The National Library of Medicine – Diabolical effects of rabies encephalitis
American Veterinary Medical Association – Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2018