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Not nocturnal, crepuscular!

Graphic about crepuscular animals

I remember when I first heard the word.

Our environmental education coordinator was talking about nocturnal animals, and then stated that skunks aren’t always nocturnal but can also be crepuscular.

“What?”

Yes. Crepuscular. Cre-puss-cue-ler.

It means simply that an animal is active at dawn and dusk. It’s not quite diurnal — meaning that it’s active during the day, and it’s also not nocturnal — meaning that it’s active at night. These animals come out the most as the sun starts to set or rise.

Scientists think that crepuscular animals are this way because they are avoiding predators. A lot of animals that are looking to prey on other animals are active during peak daylight or evening hours.

For instance, the rabbit is a crepuscular animal because it has predators such as great-horned owls and coyotes that are nocturnal and also hawks and falcons that are diurnal.

Other animals choose to be active during the dawn and dusk hours to avoid competing with other similar species. This may be the reason that the barn owl is crepuscular instead of hunting against so many other owl species that are nocturnal.

Although many people haven’t heard the word crepuscular before, many animals we are familiar with are in fact crepuscular: Deer, skunks, opossums, American woodcocks, rabbits, barn owls and even domesticated dogs and cats.

Plus, crepuscular animals can be broken down even further. Those who are most active in the morning are called matutinal, and those most active at dusk are verpertine.

Through those words around the next time you see a deer cross the road, and I’ll bet people will be impressed.

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