It is not uncommon to find skunks taking up residence near your house or even under it. As you might guess, this is quite upsetting and inconvenient as skunks are highly likely to release their infamous odorful spray when you inadvertently startle them or even bite you in some cases. So how do you keep skunks away from your home?
The best way to deal with these pests is to make your home inaccessible or unattractive to them by eliminating the two things that they find appealing– food and shelter. Skunks are scavengers, which means that they will eat just about anything they come across. Therefore, you want to get rid of fruits, birdseed, subterranean grubs, unsecured garbage, and anything else that might serve as a food source. You will also want to screen off existing structures that may serve as shelters such as porches and decks and also clear overgrown shrubbery and bushes.
Skunks can be quite hard to get rid of if you are not aware of what is attracting them to your house. Keeping them away needs a lot of vigilance and consistency on your part to work. Here are some considerations on how to deal with skunks.
How to Keep Skunks Out of Your Yard Naturally?
As previously mentioned, the only way you can get rid of skunks is by making your property less enticing. These are some tips on how to keep them out of your yard.
- Remove food sources
Skunks have a wide-ranging diet and will feed on almost anything that they find. They are particularly fond of grubs and will dig into your yard turf or roll it away to reach them. Grubs tend to increase in number in early to mid-spring, so you might notice a spike in skunk invasion during this time. Reduce the prevalence of grubs by practicing diligent yard maintenance through cleaning organic debris such as fallen branches and leaves.
Skunks also eat fallen fruits, birdseed, berries, nuts, and pet food, to mention a few. Clean up these potential food sources as often as possible to reduce the food sources that they can access.
- Secure your garbage
Skunks will look for food anywhere that they can find it, and that includes your garbage cans. Although they are poor climbers, they can nudge over garbage cans to reach the food material inside. To prevent this, start by storing all the garbage in airtight plastic bags that are securely sealed, then dispose of them in garbage cans that have secure lids. This will reduce the risk of the skunks detecting the smell and limit their access to the food scraps inside.
As an extra measure, I usually store my garbage cans in the garage and secure it to keep the skunks from entering my property.
- Keep your yard free of clutter
Just like with other pests, skunks are attracted to messy properties. They will use wood piles, leaf piles, and tree branches to stay hidden when they make their approach. Try to keep your yard clean and open by picking up fallen leaves, twigs, and branches so that there is no clutter for skunks to use as a cover.
- Clear overgrown shrubbery
Bushes and shrubbery can make your yard look lush and green, but they can also provide a pathway for skunks to access our property. Consequently, they will be attracted to decks and porches that are flanked by tall shrubs, for instance. Therefore, ensure that the ornamental plants you have near your home are well trimmed to keep a clear perimeter and make your yard less appealing to skunks.
- Seal off access points
Skunks like to construct simple burrows under structures such as porches, stairs, decks, poultry coops, and sheds as they provide them with the cover that they need to stay safe and hidden. Use wire mesh or chicken-wire fencing to limit their access to these areas. From my experience, I found that digging the mesh a couple of inches under the structure is more effective at keeping them out rather than simply digging beneath it. With no sturdy cover to dig under, t is highly unlikely that skunks will construct burrows in your yard.
- Light your yard at night
Skunks are nocturnal animals, so they like to scavenge for food at night. A bright light has been known to keep them away, but this will only work if you have already put away food and gotten rid of odors in your yard as a hungry skunk will likely put up with the lights to access scraps.
I initially relied on this method when I first experienced a skunk invasion, but I quickly discovered that my electric bill ran quite high and my neighbors were not particularly fond of bright lights being on the whole night. I switched to solar motion detector lights, but I still had to thoroughly clean my property and cover potential access routes for this technique to work.
- Turn on the sprinklers
Motion-activated sprinklers will automatically turn on and squirt the skunk when it wanders to close. Place these sprinklers strategically in the areas of your yard where skunks are likely to lurk. This method works particularly well in combination with getting rid of food sources from your yard.
- Use natural repellents
Some of the natural substances that have been known to repel skunks include:
- Hot pepper spray
Instead of using store-bought pepper spray, opt to make your own at home by mixing cayenne pepper, jalapeno peppers, and chopped yellow onion and boiling them in about two quarts of water for about 20 minutes. Strain the mixture using a cheesecloth and put it in a spray bottle. Spray it on areas where you’ve spotted the traces of a skunk and reapply when it rains or as needed.
- Citrus peels
Citrus peels are known to have natural repellent qualities. Scatter fresh lemon and orange peels around the yard and let them sit until they decompose on their own.
- Dog urine
Dog urine is effective in keeping away skunks as they are their known natural predators. If you can find a way to collect urine from your furry friend, then try this technique. Once you have enough spray it in the skunk-prone areas of your yard.
Where Do Skunks Like to Live?
Skunks often seek shelter just as the winter begins, and a place where they can mate in the latter half of the season. As a result, they may end up in your property without your knowledge. Here are some of the common spaces where they tend to hide:
- Under the house
If there is an entry point under your house, it is highly likely that a skunk might come across it and set up a shelter.
- Under the deck and porch
Porches and decks tend to have considerably high clearance, and often have several potential entrances that skunks can use.
- Under the shed
Sheds and other similar low clearance structures are hard to see into and provide the dark environment that skunks seek.
What to Look Out for
Sometimes you won’t physically spot a skunk as they are nocturnal, so you will have to look for signs of their infestation. Here are the indications to look out for:
- Cone-shaped holes
To reach some food sources, skunks typically dig small, cone-shaped holes in your garden or yard. These holes measure approximately 3-5 inches across and are relatively shallow. In many cases, you will find these holes nearby as skunks tend to look for food systematically. Look for these holes in areas of your yard where there is likely to be a high concentration of earthworms or grubs.
The foot of a skunk has five long-clawed toes, with smaller and rounder front paw pads. On both the front and back feet, the toes will be almost as long as the paw pads. Their tracks are particularly visible in fresh mud and snow.
Skunk droppings are approximately a quarter to half an inch in diameter and about 1-2 inches long, bearing a close resemblance to cat droppings. They are generally tube-shaped and come in varying consistencies, from wet and mushy to dry and flaky. Skunks tend to leave their droppings near their source of food as well as near their dens. Skunk urine is yellow, pungent, and might stain hard surfaces.
Skunks are known for their strong odor that is as a result of their defensive spray. The terrible smell of their spray tends to linger on the skunk and in the air for quite some time. The higher the population of the skunks, the stronger the smell.
Skunk spray is reminiscent of rotten eggs or sulfur. It lingers on surfaces that they have been on as well as their dens. This pungent smell is also released after a skunk dies.
- Disturbed dirt near the deck or porch
If skunks aren’t able to set up residence in a burrow abandoned by another animal, they prefer to dig under structures such as sheds, porches, rocks, and foundations. Therefore, you might come across disturbed dirt and burrows that have a narrow and short entrance.
- Rolled sod
Sod is very appealing to skunks as it typically covers plenty of roots and grubs. Skunks will, therefore, burrow into sod until they find some leverage, and when they do, they will pull uneven lumps of the sod away or even peel it back. Sod damage caused by skunks tends to start off minor and progressively grow more significant.
Do Loud Noises Scare Skunks?
Making loud noises can startle a skunk and get them to scurry away from your home. However, if they have already set up a den under your porch or house that they can use as a hiding place to get away from the noise, they will simply retreat and come back when the noise subsides. Assuming that they are yet to set up residence, you can try banging pots, clapping your hands, or even stomping to scare away a skunk. However, this technique might end up annoying your neighbors especially if you are doing it at night.
Does Human Urine Keep Skunks Away?
Human urine can be used to keep skunks away as it contains ammonia which they find quite offensive. However, it is unclear whether the ammonia found in human urine is effective in keeping skunks away for long.
For this technique, start by identifying where the skunk problem is – look for any of the aforementioned signs of their presence. The next step is to collect as much human urine as possible in a bucket or similar container. Opt to collect morning urine samples as they are more concentrated and likely to work more effectively as a result. As you might expect, it can take quite some time to collect an adequate amount of urine, depending on how big the area you intend to protect is.
Pour the urine you collect around the outer limits of the problem area. Skunks appear sometime during the night, so do this around the evening or late afternoon to ensure that it is fresh. Repeat the application process once a week, but if you feel the need to do it more often, such as when a downpour washes the urine away, go right ahead.
A great (and more effective) alternative to this technique is using ammonia. Place old rags that have been dipped in ammonia under your porch or deck to deter skunks. As with the human urine, this is not a permanent solution and will require reapplication as the smell of ammonia fades. Because ammonia is a chemical repellent, it could pose a threat to pets and children, so you only use this method if necessary.
What are Skunks Attracted to?
As previously mentioned, skunks are attracted to your yard for two main reasons:
- Easily accessible food sources
Skunks are omnivores, alternating between eating small animals and plants depending on the season. They commonly eat earthworms, grubs, and insects, so they tend to dig in your yard in search of these food sources. Skunks also frequently indulge in nuts, berries, and leaves. In suburban and urban areas, skunks may be more inclined to feed on garbage or hunt for dead rodents. If they come across it, skunks will also eat pet food.
- Safe places for shelter
Skunks will build their dens under sheds, patios, decks, and even your house as these are safe places where they can hide from predators as well as reproduce. During the winter, there may be several skunks in one den at the same time. Although skunks don’t hibernate, they might stay underground for a few weeks when the weather is particularly brutal. During the spring, they will have their babies and then leave the den by the time summer comes around to adjust their family to the wild.
Are Skunks Scared of Light?
Skunks are nocturnal, and their eyes are very sensitive to light. As a result, a bright light, or more appropriately a motion sensor flood will scare them away.
Why Do Skunks Stink?
Virtually everyone knows that skunks stink, but not too many seem to know why. Learning why and how skunks use their smelly spray is one of the best ways you can stay away from it. Here is what you need to know about skunks and their stink.
Skunk spray explained
A skunk’s spray is an oily chemical liquid that is made up of organic compounds that are referred to as thiols. Thiols are sulfuric compounds that consist of one hydrogen atom and one sulfur atom. The sulfur component is what gives the spray from skunks its infamous odor.
How do they release the spray?
The spray is generated and stored in the anal scent glands which connect to two squirters that are located under the tail on both sides of the skunk’s anus. When a skunk releases its stinky spray, it utilizes its anal muscles to force it out of the glands through the squirters.
Skunks shoot their spray very precisely, hitting targets that are as far as 10 feet away. The anal scent glands of one skunk contain about 15cc of this spray. Skunks try to use this chemical sparingly as their glands only store enough spray for around five to six strikes. If they somehow use up all the spray, it can take them up to 10 days to generate more and use it.
Why do they spray?
Skunk spray is a defensive mechanism used to keep away predators that rely on their sense of sense to look for foot such as coyotes and bears. Before spraying, a skunk will typically try other ways to scare off a predator, giving warning signs such as foot-stamping, hisses, and lifting their tails as if to release their spray.
When do skunks spray humans?
Skunks will spray humans when they feel startled or threatened. In most cases, people inadvertently threaten skunks, which is why the spray is usually so unexpected. If you come across a skunk, try to keep a distance from them. Avoid making sudden movements or walking toward it in a manner that would be perceived as threatening. If possible, back away slowly to avoid bothering the skunk.
Is the spray dangerous?
Strictly speaking, skunk spray is not too dangerous as it neither contains toxins nor transmits diseases. However, it can still trigger some of the following effects in humans:
- Eye irritation
When the skunk spray hits you directly in the face, specifically the eyes, it might cause itching, burning, and general irritation to them.
The odor of the spray has been known to trigger nausea due to how strong it is.
A high concentration of skunk spray can make breathing a bit difficult especially for those who already suffer from respiratory ailments such as asthma. It can even trigger an asthma attack as a result.
Sometimes, regardless of your efforts, a skunk will spray your dog, most commonly around or on the head. Other than leaving an unpleasant odor on your dog’s coat, it will also cause nausea and vomiting. If the spray gets into your dog’s eyes, seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible as it may cause temporary blindness.
If the spray does not put your dog in serious distress, you can neutralize the smell yourself. I often use a homemade recipe that involves a combination of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dish detergent, applying the mixture only on the affected areas, taking care to avoid getting it into your dog’s eyes or mouth. Alternatively, you can also buy commercial products specifically made for neutralizing skunk spray.
Do Mothballs Keep Skunks Away?
The active ingredient in mothballs is naphthalene, a white volatile hydrocarbon. Many animals hate the smell of naphthalene and will retreat once they detect it, at least for a while. To get rid of skunks, these white balls are usually placed near their hideouts. Although mothballs are effective at keeping away skunks, they are rather toxic to pets, humans, and the environment in general. Therefore, you want to use it sparingly and take extra precautions when handling it to avoid too much exposure.
Are Skunks Deaf?
The offspring of skunks are referred to as kits. When they are born, they are usually deaf and blind. About three weeks after their birth, skunk kits open their eyes. Despite having very sensitive eyes and very poor eyesight, they have excellent senses of hearing and smell. They are weaned after two months but continue to stay with their mother for about 10-12 months before they leave the den.
Can Skunks Climb Fences?
Skunks, unlike opossums and raccoons, are not particularly adept at climbing. I noticed that although they were able to scale my straw bales, they didn’t have the same luck when it came to my six-foot fence.
On the other hand, skunks are exceptional diggers, which means that they can dig under the barriers that you put up and gain access anyway. To prevent this, bury weave fences or hardware cloth about two inches below the ground. Bend the mesh/hardware into an L-shape or right angle and extend it at least 12 inches outward or away from the location. Dig underground a couple of inches and attach the hardware cloth to the lower end of the structure. For extra reinforcements, sheath the area with wood.
Do Skunks Bite?
A healthy skunk will rarely bite a human. The most common cause of skunks inflicting bites on humans is rabies. Just like with any other animals, skunks get infected with rabies after being bitten by a rabid animal. They can contract the virus but not show signs of infections for up to six months. However, they will only spread rabies when the disease has manifested itself.
Skunks generally don’t attack dogs or cats directly, opting to spray them instead. However, they may occasionally get into a tussle with your pet and even succeed in biting them when threatened. For this reason, ensure that your pets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccination especially if you suspect the presence of a skunk.
When it comes to skunks, you are better off keeping them away from your house rather than having to deal with them once they are already living in your property. If you execute all the suggested techniques properly and you still have a skunk problem, get in touch with skunk removal experts for further help.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare