Skunks, Snakes, Bears and Bats

By James Sweezy
Nuisance Wildlife Control

Winter is upon us; the crisp air, the cooler temperatures, and all the holiday celebrations. It is a time for families to gather together. Did you know that several species of animals also gather together? Skunks, snakes, bears, and some bats gather to hibernate. The length of the hibernation in Alabama depends on the length and severity of the winter.

Snakes can gather in a hibernaculum. This is an underground den beneath the frost line where multiple dormant snakes can go to safely protect themselves from the cold. This hibernaculum can contain many different species of snakes. The snakes coil themselves together to achieve a minimum body temperature for survival. This also helps snakes retain moisture. The snakes are not asleep the entire time. They are simply less active especially when the temperature dips below 60 degrees.

Skunks do not fully hibernate during the winter. Skunks can lower their body temperature and metabolism to conserve energy for several days or even up to a week. This is called a torpor stage. After a week or so, the skunks will leave their dens to search for food. Often, footprints can be seen coming from under porches, decks, and stoops if the skunks have burrowed under the ground. In the winter, skunks practice social thermal regulation. This means they live and sleep in large groups for warmth. It is possible that homeowners can go through most of the cold weather without noticing the skunks. Once the thawing begins, there will be extensive damage and odors.

Bats go on the move as winter approaches. They use a lot of energy flying around trying to find food. Their food is also incredibly scarce in the winter. The bats will spend the winter in a torpor stage. This is a very deep sleep that enables the bats to stay alive for the winter. The metabolic rate will slow down within the body after the body temperature is lowered and the bat falls asleep. The bats survive by using the fat reserves they have stored up in the months leading up to winter. In this regard, bats are much like bears. They gorge themselves before winter and when winter comes, they have enough fat to keep them through until it is time to wake up again. Bats will spend the winter in caves, trees, or in the attics of houses.

If you have any questions regarding any animals in your home, please contact Nuisance Wildlife Control at 256-636-1168.

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