How to Get Rid of Skunks

Skunks are funky little critters capable of producing a foul odor through the expression of their anal glands. This mechanism of self-defense makes up for their incredibly poor eyesight, allowing them the ability to spray their secretions up to a maximum of 15 feet. Skunks can carry rabies and should not be approached or grabbed. This is most notable if a skunk is visible during the day or moving around in circles, which is very abnormal. Activity is highest between May and June where males will wander in search of a mate and females will seek temporary shelter for a nesting site.

Getting Rid of Skunks

The skunk is an opportunistic scavenger (not too different from the raccoon) and hunter, feeding on anything from nuts, to honeybees, to berries. They may also prey on ground-nesting birds or mice and other small rodents. Knowledge of a skunk’s diet may provide homeowners with an idea of potential attractants. They are also nocturnal, meaning they prefer to search for food during the night. Removal of food sources and potential harborage sites will aid in keeping skunks off of your property. Like raccoons, they are often found rummaging through trash piles in search of food. Habitats surrounding ponds, lakes, and streams are ideal.

Skunk Control

Animal control specialists will wear thick leather gloves when attempting to catch wild animals like skunks, protecting their hands from bites and scratches. This almost certainly guarantees getting sprayed, so be prepared to throw away your clothes as the smell is nearly impossible to eliminate. The skunk is a terrible climber and can be placed in a recycling bin or tall box, carried away to the nearest stream or wooded lot. Glasses should be worn at all times as well.

In most cases, the manual removal of a skunk is not necessary at all. Their home range is over 90 acres, which means they are not likely to settle in one area, especially if food resources have been exhausted. Nesting sites are limited in range for approximately 3 weeks, as baby skunks are blind and rely on their mother for the production of milk and food. The elimination of accessible bird and squirrel feeders is highly recommended, as is the removal of any outdoor dog food. Any spill from these feeders should also be removed. Leaf piles and clutter should be eliminated and removed, as they can house many insects and spiders.

Skunks can safely be chased and scared away using a flash light, water hose, or leaf blower. Harassment is particularly effective in their removal. Cloth soaked in gas or household cleaners can be placed in front of small openings, preventing skunks from entering outdoor structures like sheds or crawlspaces. Be careful to ensure that the mother has not left her young inside – if trapped, they will die and produce a terrible odor that will last for weeks. As an alternative to smelly cloth, people will use leaves or soil to fill in any gaps and holes. The repeated filling of gaps will prove quite challenging to the skunk to have to move, causing the mother to pick up her young and move elsewhere. If you are confident the skunk has left, rebuild around the hole or suspected point of entry with leaves or soil. If it remains for 2 to 3 days, the hole can be sealed and the homeowner can confidently assume the skunks have left.

Skunks are rarely chased away with the presence of another animal or human alone. They are quite bold and will stand and fight until they tire. Professional traps can be purchased online and are best combined with bait or lure, like dog food (many report more success with canned cat food). Others will attempt to use netting to catch skunks, but this is not recommended as you’d have to get pretty close and risk getting sprayed. Harassment of skunks is the preferred method in their removal and control.

Skunks are horrible climbers. If you've found a skunk in a fenced yard, it's likely that it has burrowed underneath the fence line somewhere or entered through an open fence door. A skunk under the home will eventually leave on its own, but leave even faster when it has exhausted its food supply. It's best to keep your distance and make the habitat as uncomfortable as possible by installing heavy lighting. Because skunks are nocturnal, they prefer dark areas. Motion detecting flood lights or sprinkler systems can be used to repel skunks from entering the property in all future occurrences. Some homeowners will go great lengths to ensure that a skunk leaves.

Trapping a skunk under the home will cause it to die and stink up everything, so it's not recommended. The best option for catching a skunk under the home is to call in animal control or spray out with a water hose and spray attachment, or coercing it out with bait and keeping it from reentering. Chicken wire is often purchased as a measure of exclusion, but any holes more than 4 inches in diameter should be properly resealed. Live traps designed for catch and release can be purchased at nearly any home appliance store, but many of these have gaps allowing the skunk to spray out when picked up. As a result, it's best to wear disposable clothing or have a disposable sheet or bed spread ready to cover the cage before picking it up. Placing the trap on a sheet before catching the skunk is preferred. The skunk should be released in a wooded lot far away from the home.

Additional Information

Skunks live solitary lifestyles throughout most of their life, and will wander about in search of food. If you see a group of skunks, it's likely a mother with her kits (baby skunks). She will aggressively care for each of her young for about 1 year. If you find a group of skunks, consider calling the local animal control department – they have the tools and equipment to remove populations. The mother will attack if any of her young are approached. Prior to releasing their scent glands, they will stomp, hiss, and begin to raise their tail. Skunks under one year of age without their mother will likely die. Some homeowners even take it upon themselves to raise baby skunks. They can be trained to use litter boxes and will live for approximately 7 years in captivity, their scent glands surgically removed (this is illegal in the United Kingdom).