Perhaps the most feared critter of its size in the animal kingdom, or at least in our backyards, once you’ve smelled a skunk and/or seen its distinct white and black patterned fur, you’ll never forget the identifying features of a skunk.
If a skunk has wandered unto your property, the most surefire way to remove it and prevent any more skunks from squatting on your land is through trapping and relocating. However, there a range of limited preventative or lethal measures you can take into your hands, as well.
Understanding basic skunk behavior and physiology, as well as any legal impediments will assist you greatly in your endeavors. Most importantly, you’ll need to learn how to get rid of the smell if you or someone gets sprayed!
Signs of Skunks On Your Vicinity
If the powerful scent of skunk spray has not already indicated that a skunk is nearby your street or house, there are plenty of other physically tangible and visible signs to identify a skunk’s handiwork by. These include:
- Damaged crops, such as corn only up to the lower ears due to the limited height of the animal
- Raided trash cans
- Damage to poultry, such as stolen eggs or even a maimed/sequestered chicken or two.
- Holes in the lawn, 3-4 inches in diameter and conical in shape.
- Footprints in the ground similar to a cat’s, but with five toes.
- Rolled-back sod, which the skunk is capable of rolling back like a carpet.
Keep in mind, even the faint odor a skunk, whether in the aftermath or before a spray is a possible indication that a skunk has made its den within your vicinity. Strong, obviously freshly-released spray could indicate mating season when males are fighting each other for mating privileges in the late Winter.
If you or the neighbor own dogs, their strong barkings at night could be due to being alerted to a skunk’s presence. Just make sure you’re able to make a visual confirmation of the animal which your pets are barking at, either through catching the animal at the time of agitation, or through motion-activated night-vision cameras you can install on your property.
How to Get Rid of Skunks Underneath the House
Skunks occasionally dig underneath the foundations of a building or even nest up underneath your porch, as mentioned earlier.
Don’t bother tossing in mothballs or other chemical deterrents into a skunk’s residence, whose squatters will likely retaliate with their infamous spray. Once you’ve realized skunks are holing up beneath your porch or building foundation, the most effective way to remove them is through trapping and removing.
Preventative steps are vital and cannot be neglected after getting rid of the problem. If you have hired a wildlife expert in the previous option, you can ask him to install a steel exclusion barrier around the perimeter of the skunk’s previous enclave in order to prevent any other wild animals from getting similar inspirations to hole up where they shouldn’t.
How to Get Rid of Skunks in the Garage
If by some unlikely chance the holes within your separate garage building or even your leaving the garage door open overnight has left a skunk holed up in there, your best bet is to wait until the skunk has left on its own.
When it has finally left its spot to gather food or do other business, spray the entrances where the skunk has entered with pepper spray several times a week, with a combination of moth balls.
How to Get Rid Of Skunks In the Backyard
If you can find out where skunks are living in your backyard, you’ve already solved half the problem. As with skunks camping near your house, placing a trap near their den within your yard or backyard is also the best method to get rid of them.
Disguise the trap with leaves, sticks, any nearby vegetation to camouflage obvious tampering. Place your bait, such as dog food or something with a strong aroma such as a stick coated with peanut butter in order to lure skunks into the trap.
Once trapped, make sure there are no babies left in the den, as those will need to be trapped as well.
If you’re not fortunate enough to have a fence built around the perimeter of your yard, there’s little that can be done to prevent skunks from wandering on campus and stirring a ruckus. Your backyard is made particularly appealing through having a garden full of low-hanging fruits and veggies (constructing a chicken wire around may help).
When and Where do Skunks Sleep?
Before you ask— no, they do not hibernate. But yes, skunks are nocturnal, meaning that they are most active from early evening until dawn, and are rarely seen frolicking under sunlight, despite what Bambi may have taught you.
Daylight therefore is usually spent sleeping in their dens, which may be a little rocky grotto or cave, usually below ground, but these can be found near streams, ponds, or lumber piles. Occasionally they may sleep in dense, packed vegetation during warm months.
Skunk dens are usually established no more than 2 miles within their water source, as all animals require a constant source of hydration. These living spaces are made from hollowed out logs, tree hollows, brush piles, or even the abandoned burrows of other animals.
Like most common critters, however, skunks learned to utilize man-made architecture into their own enclaves of rest, and there may be nothing more dreading for the homeowner to discover a skunk sleeping underneath their porch and other crawl spaces in the yard!
What do Skunks Like to Eat?
Skunks, being omnivores, like to eat any form of morsel from vegetation to protein. Their diet consists of insects, poultry, to garden vegetables and wild fruit. Thus they make meals out of everything from mushrooms, to the more unsuspected such as bird eggs and frogs!
Skunks obtain their fill of insects through digging through root and soil for insect larvae, crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles. Skunks also eat bees and wasps, and may be occasionally observed attacking beehives for their honeycombs and extra protein!
The method by which they dig for their food may result in the same type of lawn damage inflicted by raccoons. However, skunks do not have the means nor demonstrate the intelligence to push over or work out complex human garbage cans as the latter do.
Skunks also make snacks of smaller mammals such as mice, squirrels, shrews and moles, and thus contribute their part in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Since skunks are also immune to snake venom, they have no qualms with dueling and eating a poisonous snake either.
What Diseases do Skunks Carry?
Skunks do not carry any particular large number amount of pathogens mammals their size do, in comparison to say, raccoons or coyotes. Some of their most serious diseases and/or parasites include but are not limited to:
- Leptospirosis – a bacterial disease that can cause a wide range of symptoms that can be mistaken for other diseases.
- Canine distemper – a viral disease (that can be airborne) that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of dogs, and other mammals.
- Canine hepatitis – a viral disease that affects the liver of dogs, which can be fatal.
- Roundworm – a parasite that causes malnutrition in its hosts.
- Rabies – a virus that is almost always fatal, and transmitted through contact with fluids or bites.
A common symptom of these diseases transferred into both humans and their mammalian pets is lethargy and problems with diet. Rabies, however, is a serious and lethal threat which can be transmitted easily with every bite from a wild animal, and demands immediate medical attention and a visit to the hospital for proper shots and treatment.
Do Skunks Dig?
Certainly, skunks are prolific diggers, and this is one of the primary reasons they are considered pests upon human property. In fact, as stated earlier, one of their primary methods of obtaining their favorite food, insects, is through digging through plants and soil with their powerful front paws, whether it be through your garden or lawn sod!
While this occurs all the time in the wild, if a skunk is exercising its talents on your lawn it can result in some ugly-looking blotches on your lawn or backyard. The skunk also begins digging when it seeks to create a quick shelter, usually underneath buildings via foundation openings.
Should I Trap a Skunk?
The (arguably) most surefire way to get rid of skunks for certainty is through live trapping and relocating the animal far off the property. It’s also a more humane option than poisoning the animal and removing its corpse, two things which most laypersons are not willing to experience.
Since there are no effective chemical methods to prevent skunks from wandering onto your area (no definitely effective skunks repellents exist as of this writing), it’s not too difficult to trap them and avoiding their noxious spray. The first thing to research before considering the trapping of any wild animal is the legal parameters surrounding the task.
The most authoritative resource would be your local animal services department, although one quick search on the internet for Federal and State local laws will confirm whether it is legal to be trapping skunks within the area’s jurisdiction.
Know that skunks, being larger animals than say, moles or rats are likely to have more protection legally. Also be warned that trapping skunks is far riskier business due to its ability to spray and rabies-carrying potential than most mammals.
The type of trap used will understandably influence the legality as well as effectiveness of actually trapping the animal. The appropriate-sized cage is far preferable to that of snares or other traps considered inhumane and cruel, resulting in less work for you to clean up both viscerally and legally afterwards.
If, by the rare chance a skunk has somehow fallen through the basement well door, and is wandering within your basement, it is best to hire a professional’s help. The trapper will likely use a snare pole and protective clothing and gear while doing so. Alternatively, you can place a wooden plank leading to the entrance of the door in the hopes that the skunk will climb out on its own back outside, although this is mostly leaving it to luck and may not be an option during rainy weather.
How Much Does Skunk Removal Cost?
According to angieslist.com, the national average of the United States to remove a small wild animal can cost anywhere from 125$ to 375$, which varies upon your location and the difficulty of reaching the animal. However, if you’re considering this option it’s best to not hire for cheap (at least 150$ and above).
If and when you decide to hire a company, make sure that they have proper licensing, bonding and insurance. The stakes are particularly higher when the rabies-carrying skunk is involved, which will draw an emphasis on state and local regulations you wouldn’t expect when dealing with, say— moles or similarly smaller varmints.
How do You Scare Off a Skunk Without Getting Sprayed?
We’re going to assume that you asked this question knowing that a skunk’s spray can reach up to 15 feet (some sources even claim as far as 25 feet), and the potency of the odor is so powerful it can be detected over 1.5 miles.
Knowing this fact, the best method for “scaring off” a skunk is to make any further entry and staying at your property through making their residence as unwelcome as possible in indirect, preventative methods. As mentioned earlier, there are no truly effective skunk repellents, but the methods listed are meant to provide as much irritation as possible to the critter squatting on your property.
A mixture of castor oil and dish-cleaning detergent is reported to be an offensive combination to the skunks’ strong sense of smell. Spray at areas you know the skunk frequents while it is away foraging or doing other business.
Other offensive tactics to assault the skunk’s olfactory glands involve using citrus, such as placing lemon or tangerine peels around the yard.
The usage of bright light to scare off skunks is justified by the understanding that they’re nocturnal animals. These can be used to steer skunks out of an area from a safe distance or behind cover.
Alternatively, if you absolutely must scare a skunk, one last ditch solution is to attach a sprayer nozzle to your hose and spray the skunk from a distance. The water stream will be harsh and blinding, and without a target to fix its spray upon, the skunk will not spray and will be forced to flee.
Is it Legal to Kill Skunks?
As with researching any legal boundaries concerning the allowance of killing wild animals, be sure to check with state and local laws, and your local animal wildlife center. Chances are, if it’s legal to kill skunks in your state then it’s definitely legal to trap them, which is a far safer and less smellier option.
Like it or not, there are some people who enjoy the activity of shooting skunks, but the consequences of a misplaced shot resulting in the animal’s death and the release of its infamous scent may negate the purpose of a gun in the first place.
With legal approval, there are traps which result in a lethal conclusion for the skunk upon successful trapping. Again, killing a skunk is messy business, as rupturing its anal glands is a risk added to that of cleaning up its gristly remains.
If poisoning has been cleared by your consulting the law, you can buy skunk-specific poison pellets on the market. Since skunks like to eat anything they can find, sprinkling the poisoned food anywhere it dwells or frequents may work.
Be advised, however, as with all methods of dispatching skunks, poisoning is not recommended because of 1. Humane concerns 2. Inability to pinpoint specific animal (dangers to other animals, pets, or even children) 3. Difficulty of locating corpse to confirm effectiveness.
In conclusion, just because the law allows you to kill skunks, doesn’t mean you should carry through with the action. Trapping and removing or contacting a wildlife professional are far more effective methods to deal with skunks than killing them.
Does Chocolate Kill Skunks?
Chocolate contains the chemical theobromine, which kills most animals which ingest it because their stomachs cannot digest the ingredient— but only if they eat a lot of it!
Once eating chocolate a skunk would likely get sick and vomit, which may prove to be a learning experience for the animal not to eat it again. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains, so if you wish to use this method, the type of chocolate does matter. Scatter your chocolate in proven skunk entries or near its den, although a skunk corpse cannot be promised with confidence.
Will Antifreeze Kill Skunks?
Yes, Antifreeze will kill a skunk. However, it is not a good idea to use antifreeze, as it shares the same risks of using any other poison; is considered inhumane and causes extreme pain to the animal before death.
The method is done simply by leaving a bowl of antifreeze in a container such as a dog bowl in the wilderness or near the skunk’s den and waiting for the animal to take a drink from it. However, it’s nearly impossible to confirm that a skunk has taken the bait, or to guarantee that another animal won’t suffer a painful death instead.
How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell?
Once sprayed, the smell of skunk spray can last anywhere from two to three weeks. News flash— the old fashioned remedy of using tomato juice to get rid of the skunk smell is a myth; it doesn’t work. However, the longer you wait, the harder it is to get rid off!
Instead, if you or your pet have become the recipient of a skunk’s ire, the Humane Society of the United States recommend you wash with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide (1 quarts), ¼ a cup of baking soda, and 1-2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap. The mixture may dry your skin, so repeat the process with moisture-replenishing cream in-between.
Suppose that your mother’s dress or a favorite t-shirt that cannot simply be disposed of gets sprayed by a skunk. Soak the affected clothing in a solution of vinegar and water in a ratio of 1 to 4, for several hours. Then rinse the clothes with water, washing in hot water with detergent and half a cup of baking soda. Repeat the rinsing and washing process, then hang the clothes outdoors to dry. Do not use a clothes dryer.
When the victim comes indoors, inevitably he/she or it will bring the smell with them. Placing cups of vinegar around the house or heating a pan of it atop the stovetop can help keep the odor in check.
Do Skunks Provide Any Benefit Whatsoever?
Yes, due to the bulk of skulks’ diet being insects (70%, according to healthyliving.com), skunks contribute their part to balancing the ecosystem through controlling the insect population. They dig up harmful insect larvae and consume plenty of other pest species, and in older times were kept on American farms for that express purpose.
In addition, skunks themselves provide food for the predators which prey upon them (mostly birds of prey who lack a sense of smell and hence any respect for the skunk’s defense mechanism). If they manage to die of old age, unscathed, their body returns nutrients and energy to the soil upon decomposition.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare