Where Do Skunks Live And How To Keep Them Out Of Your Yard

Skunk sightings are becoming more and more commonplace as we spread our residential areas further into rural sites.

Understanding where skunks live and sleep and whether they hibernate can help us get to grips with their habits and be less surprised when we happen across them.

Skunks live in dens, which they usually build in the ground, but also in garages, sheds, crawl spaces, and other manmade structures.

While they don’t hibernate, they spend the majority of winter in their dens and only leave them to find food.

As I’m about to explain, skunks are widely spread across the Americas, often denning in our yards, where we’re left with the task of removing them or better yet, implementing ways to prevent them even trying.

Where do skunks live or sleep? Let’s dig in a find out, plus how we can keep them from making our yards their home.

Key Takeaways

  1. Skunks are adaptable creatures and can be found in various habitats across North America, including forests, grasslands, suburban areas, and even urban environments.
  2. Skunks prefer dens for shelter and typically dig burrows or repurpose existing structures such as abandoned dens, hollow logs, or rock crevices. They may also take up residence under decks, sheds, or crawl spaces.
  3. To discourage skunks from living close to your house eliminate potential food sources, secure garbage cans, seal off access points to potential den sites, and make sure yards are well-maintained.

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Where Do Skunks Live

where do skunks live

Skunks are widely distributed across the Americas and parts of Indonesia. Different genera of the skunk family occupy different areas, which has vastly influenced their evolution and characteristics. Here’s a look at their global distribution.

Geographic Distribution

All skunks belong to the Mephitidae family, which is split into four genera – Conepatus, Mephitis, Spilogale, and Mydaus.

The Conepatus genus has four member species – Molina’s hog-nosed skunk, Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunk, American hog-nosed skunk, and striped hog-nosed skunk.

As you can assume from the name – they have a long, snout-like nose, similar to that of a pig, only smaller. They use it to dig below the ground for food.

American hog-nosed skunks are the largest skunk species in the world, and they can be found anywhere from Texas and New Mexico, all the way south to Honduras and Nicaragua.

Striped hog-nosed skunks are found in southern Mexico and northern Peru, while Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunks are found in South Argentina.

Lastly, Molina’s hog-nosed skunks are found all over South America, including Chile, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern Argentina.

The Mephitis genus has only two members – the striped and the hooded skunk. Both of these species are found in the USA, but the striped skunk is found all over the country, while the hooded skunk is only found in the southwest.

The striped skunk is also found in the southern half of Canada, with some pocketed populations in northern Mexico.

Aside from the southwestern USA, the hooded skunk is also found in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northwest Costa Rica.

Spotted skunks of the Spilogale genus have a characteristic spots-and-stripes pattern on their coat, hence the name.

Western spotted skunks, one of the four species, are found in the western United States, northern Mexico, and parts of British Columbia.

Southern spotted skunks cover the same area as the hooded skunk, while the pygmy spotted skunk is only found on the Pacific coast of Mexico, making it a very rare species.

Lastly, the eastern spotted skunk is found in the central, north-central, and southeastern United States.

The only remaining genus is the Mydaus genus, which contains only two species – the stink badger. Stink badgers are false badgers – they look like badgers, but they’re actually skunks.

These animals are found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and on the western Greater Sunda Islands – Sumatra, Borneo, and Java.

To sum up, as this is a lot to take in, most skunks are found anywhere from Canada to Argentina, while a single genus is found in Oceania!

Skunks Natural Habitat

Skunks are highly adaptable animals, so they can live in various habitats. They’re most often found in forests and meadows, but they’ll inhabit swamps, semi-arid areas, rocky areas, and open fields.

It’s been found that they prefer cultivated areas, but they can adapt to any type of habitat.

On top of all that, skunks are often found wandering into human habitats.

Since they’ll eat pretty much anything smaller than them (including venomous snakes) and they’re capable of withstanding temperature changes, skunks can inhabit any area that isn’t extremely cold or extremely hot, as long as it has food.

Skunks Moving Into Urban Areas

Because manmade structures are so good at shielding from both the hot and the cold, it’s not odd that skunks are invading them in great numbers.

Not only do our homes provide them with warmth and shade, but they also attract skunk food. They love preying on insects, lizards, and mice – all of which are common around households.

They’re also attracted to pet food.

Since we’re constantly tearing down forests to build residential neighborhoods, it’s unlikely that this problem will go away with time.

The biggest issue about this is the mess that skunks create – they can absolutely destroy your garage or your shed when they move in, not to mention that they can hurt you and your pets.

Skunks will always turn away from you if they spot you, but they’re not quick animals and will stand their ground if you confront them. They have long claws and powerful legs, enabling them to inflict painful cuts.

Their jaws are capable of breaking through bones, not to mention that they’re carriers of various diseases, rabies being the most dangerous one.

Because of this, it’s highly advised not to approach skunks and to always inform Animal Control if you have a skunk in the yard.

Where Do Skunks Sleep

skunks natural habitat

Skunks will take short naps on their daily travels if they’re tired and aren’t in dangerous territory, but they don’t sleep for long in those situations.

Real sleep is reserved for the den, as skunks are denning animals.

Since they’re crepuscular animals (mostly active during dusk and dawn, but also at night), skunks mostly sleep throughout the day.

Skunk Dens

Since they have powerful legs with large feet and long claws, skunks are more than capable of digging their own dens.

However, they prefer to take over an abandoned den or evict an animal from their den and claim it for themselves.

They’re actually ferocious animals and they’re not afraid of conflict.

They’ll often expand these burrows to their own needs, as skunks are normally larger than the animals that lived in the burrow before them. When digging their own burrow, they’ll build it below a rock pile or a wood pile.

Since people build such good shelters, skunks often end up invading them. If possible, a skunk will spend the winter in your garage or your shed – especially if they are left undisturbed.

They also like crawl spaces, foundations, and empty spaces under a patio or a porch.

It’s unlikely for a skunk to invade your home because they avoid areas with plenty of foot traffic, especially if said traffic comes from people.

Do Skunks Hibernate Over Winter

Skunks aren’t true hibernators – true hibernators only leave their den in a matter of life and death – a fire or an invasion, for example. This isn’t the case for skunks.

Skunks’ Behaviour During Winter

A skunk’s behavior could be best described as a winter rest. They don’t hibernate in the true sense of the word, as they’ll leave their den a few times during the winter to hunt for food.

However, they mostly rely on their fat reserves. For months before the winter, a skunk will actively overeat to put on enough fat to keep his metabolism running through the colder months.

To make this possible, they’ll drop their body temperature to about 32°C from the original 38°C, which is a massive change.

Although they’re normally solitary animals and one den is usually inhabited by a single skunk, this changes during the winter. It’s normal to see a den full of female skunks and a single male skunk.

Two male skunks can live in the same den, but that’s very rare as they’ll usually fight for dominance until one male leaves or dies.

Despite their best efforts at overeating in advance and hunting during the winter, a skunk can lose up to 50% of its normal body weight during the winter.

How to Detect Skunks in Your Yard

Suspecting an infestation is one thing but establishing some key facts is an important step to take before making plans to get rid of a skunk.

Here is a rundown of how to verify the presence of skunks on your property before you take any action at all.

Locate the Den

If a skunk turned a part of your home into its den, it’ll be easy to locate them. Simply check your garage, sheds, crawl space, and the space under the porch.

While it’s more likely this will happen in the winter, skunks can also do this in the summer.

Look Out for Skunk Poop

Skunk poop is easy to recognize as it’s similar to cat poop. The pieces are usually oval, blunt-edged, and no longer than 4 inches. The diameter is approximately half an inch.

They can lose their smell quickly, but the contents give them away, as they often contain the bones of small animals.

Signs of Scavenging or Foraging

Skunks prefer meat to vegetables and fruit. They’re attracted to the aroma and so if a skunk smells pet food, which is essentially meat, it’ll definitely follow the smell.

If you find a bag of pet food ripped open in the garage (or wherever you keep it), a skunk might be at fault. The same rule applies to bird feeders – they love nuts and they’ll gladly eat them.

Similar to raccoons, they’ll also knock over garbage bins and eat whatever they find inside. The things we throw away are often a real treat for them and they can live off of it for weeks.

They will also eat windfall fruit. While skunks aren’t good climbers and usually can’t scale trees to get to the fruit, they’ll forage it from the ground.

An orchard is a treasure trove for skunks and they’ll gladly feast on any type of fruit.

Damage To Your Property

Skunks are most definitely messy animals and they’ll leave a trace wherever they go, making it easy to spot them.

Not only do they leave droppings everywhere, but they’ll also knock over trash cans, stink the place up, and damage your property.

They can break thin barriers, such as wooden plates, and dig under fences and foundations if needed. They’ll also dig into the lawn to find grubs just below the surface.

To build a comfortable den for themselves, skunks will knock the place around and look for insulating materials, such as blankets.

All in all, they leave trails that are impossible to ignore.

Preventing Skunk Infestations

While they can seem to be relentless animals, skunks can be prevented from invading your garden.

The most effective form of protection is a strong fence. They’re not climbing animals and they can’t jump too far or too high, so a 4-foot fence is already tall enough to prevent them from climbing it.

However, they’re good diggers, so they can burrow under the fence into your yard. Prevent this by laying the fence down at least a foot into the ground.

Another effective way to stop skunk infestations is by fortifying anything they would turn into a den. For example, the space under the patio or the terrace can easily be blocked with a strong metal mesh.

Lastly, keep your yard clean from fallen fruit, pet food, and trash. Use airtight containers for pet food and trash – that way, skunks won’t be able to smell it and will be less attracted to your yard.

Final Thoughts: Where Do Skunks Live and Sleep

Understanding where skunks sleep and their preference for not hibernating, makes it easier to protect your home from them. 

It’s entirely possible that your home isn’t even at risk of an infestation, as skunks aren’t a global species, and even if they are frequent in your area, they can be deterred with good fencing and protecting possible den sites.  

Skunks aren’t true hibernators, but they mostly rest during the winter. They often like to rest in our homes, but they’re easily detected because of the messiness, droppings, and property damage they cause.

Frequently Asked Questions

What attracts skunks to your yard?

Skunks are attracted to yards that provide easy access to food, water, and shelter. Common attractants include uncovered garbage or compost bins, fallen fruits or vegetables, pet food left outside, and unsecured bird feeders.

Plus, if your yard has a lot of insects or grubs, skunks may be drawn to feast on them.

Where do skunks go in the daytime?

Skunks are nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active during the night. During the daytime, skunks usually find shelter in dens or burrows. They may use existing structures like hollow logs, rock crevices, or underground burrows.

In residential areas, skunks may seek refuge under decks, sheds, porches, or in crawl spaces.

Where do skunks live in your yard?

Skunks can live in various areas of your yard, depending on the availability of suitable shelter. Common locations include under decks, porches, sheds, and in crawl spaces.

They may also dig burrows in open spaces if the soil conditions permit.

Skunks are adaptable and will choose locations that provide cover and protection.

How do I find a skunk nest?

Skunks do not build elaborate nests like birds or squirrels. Instead, they create dens or burrows for shelter. To find a skunk den, look for signs such as small holes or openings in the ground near structures like decks or sheds.

Skunk dens are typically located in quiet and secluded areas.

However, it’s important to exercise caution and avoid approaching or disturbing the den, as skunks may feel threatened and spray defensively.

If you suspect a skunk den on your property, it’s advisable to contact a professional wildlife removal service to handle the situation safely and appropriately.