Our Furry Smelly Friend…The Skunk

closeup image of skunk in grass

The very idea of skunks make people nervous. A skunks natural defense mechanism – you know the spray, makes them a very undesirable neighbor. But, there are so many skunks around it is almost impossible to avoid them or at least the smell. I get numerous calls about skunks in my business especially by irate dog owners or folks who have those great little cat or dog doors and end up with a skunk in the kitchen eating kibble.

I want to share some ideas to avoid problems associated with skunks and some understanding of these beautiful animals that we live with.

First of all, there are times of the year when skunks decide that there are better places than the woods (what little is left in urban and suburban areas) to den. The oncoming colder months often drive them under decks and into basements and then in the early spring the need for a safe place to rear their kits.

A lot of spraying occurs during mating and then again to protect their dens. I receive the distress calls at these times. Sometimes it is just unpleasant for people and sometimes people are allergic or sensitive to the odor and they have to vacate until the smell goes away.

When I get a call, the first thing I do is discover for certain if there is a skunk residing under a house or deck. This is usually easy to detect if there is a lingering odor and there are signs of skunk digging and an obvious point of entry such as basement vent that is torn open. Sometimes, as with decks that are open all around, the only sign is the odor.

Once I am fairly certain the skunk or skunks are there, I determine if the space can be closed up and the animal(s) eventually evicted and excluded. This is easy in the case of a torn open vent but can be more difficult around decks. In the case of decks harboring skunks, I recommend digging a trench around the edge and putting in a wire barrier about 1-2 feet deep with an “L” bend at the bottom facing out.

Once there is an exclusion option or even if there is not, the next step is to start the eviction process. I like to use Pine Sol and I spray it into the area using a fertilizer bottle on a garden hose. I put the Pine Sol in full strength and set the fertilizer bottle at highest level. Then, I wait until the evening, just before skunks usually emerge and spray the area trying to reach the deep, dark places. Don’t worry, I never see them come running right out, skunks are very cautious, they come out later when things are quiet. They are rarely seen emerging. The next day, and especially if there is a barrier with one opening, I put a piece of cardboard over the exit and see if the cardboard or paper is pushed in or out to determine if the animal returned.

At this point I install a one-way door on the opening to ensure that if an animal is still inside it can exit. I leave the door open and continue to spray for a few more nights. The mom will relocate the kits and then the sealing up time is right. In the case of an area like a deck that cannot have a barrier, constant spraying will do the trick.

In the event of skunks or other animals getting into the house via a cat or dog door, there are a few ways to handle this.
• Bring your animal inside at night and not use the door.
• Close the door as early as possible in the evening.
• Get an animal door that require your animal to wear a magnetic collar to get in.
• If you feed your animals outside, particularly cats, then put the dish away at night so you don’t attract other animals.

There are only a couple of reasons to resort to trapping a skunk. One, if the animal is obviously sick. In the case of a skunk, if it is seen during the day or appears aggressive. Reason two, if eviction attempts fail. In this case, we ascertain if kits are present and proceed with setting traps if there are no babies that could be left behind.

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