Are Skunks Crepuscular, Nocturnal or Diurnal?

Last updated on October 30th, 2022

Contrary to popular belief, skunks aren’t nocturnal animals because their behavior is more crepuscular in nature, meaning that they are most active at dawn and twilight. Even though you can see skunks during any time of day, they are more active between the twilight period of sunrise and sunset.

The twilight hours of activity for crepuscular animals can be split up into 3 different types:

  • Nautical Twilight
  • Astronomical Twilight
  • Civil Twilight

However, the primary twilight hours in which skunks are active is during the period when the sun illuminates only a portion of the atmosphere so that it is neither completely dark nor completely lit.

Since skunks are most active at dawn and dusk, they are more likely to be seen near areas with water or food spots.

However, skunks have poor eyesight which causes them to rely on their keen sense of smell and hearing to hunt for food.

Even though a skunk’s eyesight is poor compared to humans, they can still react quite well to changes in lighting conditions.

are skunks crepuscular nocturnal or diurnal 29102022

What Makes an Animal Crepuscular?

Crepuscular animals tend to lay low during the day. They will either rest or eat food that was gathered. However, it is becoming more prevalent that this adaptation in crepuscular activity has evolved in animals using it as a way to avoid detection by diurnal predators.

Additionally, the coarse light of twilight hours makes it difficult for both nocturnal and diurnal animals to detect movement. As a result, some predators have adapted by becoming crepuscular as a means by which they can better track their prey.

Following the same logic, it makes sense why skunks prey on small rodents, so when rats are wandering and looking for food during the twilight hours, they eventually become prey for skunks.

Crepuscular animals are able to hide themselves in the shadows created by the dimming sunlight. This allows them to sneak up on unsuspecting prey without being seen.

There are several theories regarding the evolution of crepuscular behavior. One theory suggests that early mammals were primarily nocturnal, but became crepuscular after evolving larger eyes.

Another theory suggests that crepuscular behavior was favored by selection pressures associated with increased predation risk.

Still, another theory suggests that crepuscular behavioral activities in animals evolved as a response to seasonal changes in food availability.

When Do Skunks Come Out?

Skunks are crepuscular, meaning they leave their burrows during dusk and dawn to forage for food or spray that strong unpleasant liquid smell in the area to ward off predators.

Skunks follow a routine that looks something like this:

DaytimeSkunks are resting in the burrows with their families.
DuskSkunks will become active if they aren’t already and they will begin foraging for food.
NighttimeSkunks are resting in the burrows with their families.
DawnSkunks will continue foraging for food in areas where leftovers of other pet food remain.

Are Skunks Nocturnal?

Skunks are not nocturnal but despite the fact that most skunks appear to be crepuscular, there is considerable variation in their behavior, meaning they may be found at any time of the day, including at night.

In addition, they do come out of their dens during the night, so they are not strictly crepuscular either. They are, however, much less active than other nocturnal animals such as owls.

Animals that are nocturnal have specially adapted eyesight and their behavior is often distinguished by their activity during the night while they take rests throughout the day.

Skunks wandering out of their burrows at night can put them at a disadvantage because their eyesight is poor which can leave them open to attacks from a predator.

What Do Skunks Do During The Night?

Skunks are usually resting with their families at night. However, if the skunk spent their time during the twilight hours gathering food, then it is highly possible that they will eat the foraged food in their habitat during the night.

Even though skunks will typically rest in their dens, they will sometimes sleep outside of their dens during the night.

Skunks can feel more safe sleeping outside of their dens when they take the time to spray that unpleasant liquid smell around the area to ward off predators.

However, if you find a skunk sleeping outside of its den, make sure not to disturb it as it could be injured or even killed.

Are Skunks Diurnal?

Skunks are not diurnal but despite the fact that they are awake for a minimal part of the day, there is little diurnal activity going on in addition to the crepuscular activity patterns that skunks display.

They are also not strictly crepuscular either as they do come out of their dens during the day. However, they are much less active than other diurnal animals such as primates.

What Do Skunks Do During The Day?

Skunks are awake for a minimal amount of the day but they are not asleep all day long.

Skunks are primarily hunters who use their excellent senses of smell and hearing to find prey and their hunting methods include digging through the soil looking for insects, rodents, and small reptiles.

They will also dig holes in search of grubs and worms. Other times, they will simply sit quietly waiting for prey to walk past.

If they spot an insect or small rodent, they will chase after it and eat it. If they don’t catch anything, they’ll just wait until another animal comes along.

Related – Do Skunks Hibernate? How Skunks Survive the Winter?

How Long Can Skunks Stay Awake?

Skunks are very alert creatures and are constantly scanning their surroundings for danger through the sense of sound and smell. 

This means that they can stay awake for long periods of time without tiring themselves out.

The main difference between skunks and other nocturnal animals is that they spend the majority of their time sleeping during the day.

When Are Skunks Least Active?

Skunks are the least active during the day and the night because of their crepuscular behavior.

During the day, skunks sleep in underground dens, hollow logs, burrows, tree cavities, under rocks, or in holes with their families.

At dawn or dusk, they emerge from their dens and search for food and water to drink.

Can Skunks See at Night?

Skunks don’t see too well at night because they have poor eyesight but this doesn’t stop them from snacking on the food they gathered during their active hours.

In Summary

Skunks are indeed crepuscular animals but all skunk species display some level of activity during the day and the night, so they’re not strictly crepuscular.

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