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Raccoons Hibernate… or do They?

a raccoon sleeping in a hollow tree

It’s easy to assume that raccoons hibernate over the winter. It would make sense: they forage, secure their winter dens and are seen less often. However they do not “hibernate” in the true sense of the word.

Raccoons will remain active over the winter depending on the weather. During warmer spells it’s not uncommon to see them out and about. The same is true for skunks and tree squirrels - meaning they can enter your home all year round!

To elaborate:

1. Hibernation is a voluntary state of deep sleep or rest where the animal’s heart rate, metabolic rate and breathing rate slow down. Their body temperature will become lower - all to help them conserve energy and sleep through the winter. They will seldom stir or wake during this time. Animals who truly hibernate include:

  • Bats

  • Ground squirrels

  • Groundhogs

2. Raccoons, skunks and tree squirrels enter a variation of hibernation called torpor. This is a much lighter, involuntary state of sleep where the animal sleeps for a few hours to a few days during really cold weather. Once the weather warms they wake up and continue on. Their body rates slow down during rest, but return to normal once they wake. This can also happen multiple times over the course of the winter. Other animals who torpor include:

  • Bears

  • Mice

  • Chipmunks

3. There is another version called brumation which is hibernation specific to cold-blooded animals. Their body does much of the same things as an animal in hibernation, waking seldomly to drink water or change position. Animals who brumate include:

  • Frogs

  • Snakes

  • Turtles

Another fun fact: a mild winter can mean early baby season for many species! If you think your roof has weak spots, it’s best to fix it ASAP. If you think wildlife have already moved in, call a professional for an assessment and exclusion. We’ll get them out - and keep them out!

Gunning Wildlife Removal & Pest Control services southern Ontario including Woodstock, London, Stratford, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Brantford, Tillsonburg and surrounding areas.

Call: (519) 421-2677

Text: (289) 987-0390



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