Skunks, with their signature black and white fur, might seem harmless enough when viewed from afar, but anyone who has had a close encounter with one of these creatures knows just how problematic they can be. Skunks are notorious for their highly offensive odor, propensity to spread diseases, and their pesky habit of digging up lawns.
More often than not, they take up residence in places that are less than ideal for homeowners, like your shed, garage, or under the porch. In some cases, they can even be found in hollow trees or near rock and wood piles.
So, how do you keep these unwanted guests at bay? This article will take you through comprehensive steps to make your property less attractive to skunks and prevent them from turning your home into theirs.
Table of Contents
Understanding Skunks and Their Habits
To effectively deter skunks, it’s crucial to understand their behavior and preferences. Skunks are omnivores with a broad diet. From rotten fruits and vegetables to pet food, insects, birds, and even smaller rodents, skunks aren’t picky about what they eat. They’re known for rifling through trash bins in their search for a meal. Once a skunk finds a food source, it’s likely to return, hence the importance of securing your waste and pet food.
Skunks are also great diggers. They leave behind 1-3 inch deep holes in your yard, often dug under the cover of darkness. This not only destroys your lawn but also provides them with potential burrows.
Keeping Your Yard Clean and Decluttered
To dissuade skunks from setting up camp on your property, start by maintaining a clean and clutter-free yard. Old lumber cuts, rock piles, tree stumps, or any structures they can hide under should be removed. Repair any gaps or holes in your fences or decks where a skunk could potentially take shelter.
Proper Disposal of Food and Waste
Never leave pet food outdoors overnight. Skunks are nocturnal creatures and will scavenge for food under the cover of darkness. Hanging bird feeders in places inaccessible to skunks and monitoring the produce from your vegetable or fruit plants can also help to limit their food sources.
Ensure all fallen fruits, tree branches, twigs, and leaves are promptly cleared from your yard. Not only does this remove potential food sources, but it also eliminates hiding spots.
To prevent skunks from scavenging in your trash, always secure your bins with tight lids or locks. This simple measure can greatly reduce the likelihood of a skunk visit.
Securing Open Spaces and Installing Fences
Cover or fill any open spots that could be used as burrows by these nocturnal creatures. This includes areas under your porch or deck, as well as any large holes in your yard.
Installing a sturdy fence around your property is an excellent deterrent. Skunks are not great climbers, so a fence can effectively keep them out. Remember to cut down any overhanging tree branches that could provide an alternative route into your yard.
The Use of Light and Repellents
Skunks have a strong dislike for bright lights. Installing outdoor lights can make your yard less appealing to them. Motion-activated lights can be particularly effective.
Lastly, consider using skunk repellents. These come in various forms, including liquid and granule variants, or even automatic sprayers that trigger when a skunk is within a certain range.
If a Skunk Finds Its Way Into Your Home
In the unfortunate event that a skunk does manage to get inside your house, it’s important to act calmly and strategically. Seal off all but one exit point, and allow the skunk to leave on its own. Avoid using food as bait to coax the skunk out, as it will remember your home as a source of food and could potentially return.
- Identify Signs of Skunk Presence: Skunks have a distinctive musky smell, and if you smell it persistently under a building or woodpile, it’s likely a skunk has taken up residence. Other signs include small, shallow holes in the lawn (from skunks foraging for grubs), plants knocked over, or damage to the lower leaves or ears of ripening garden crops.
- Prevent Attracting Skunks: Skunks are opportunists and mainly attracted to accessible food sources and convenient denning sites. To deter them, secure your trash, cover window wells, feed pets indoors or remove food immediately after they eat outdoors, and secure all outbuildings. Avoid overwatering your lawn, as wet soil conditions can push grubs close to the surface and attract skunks.
- Prevent Denning (Exclusion): To prevent skunks from making a den on your property, any suspected skunk den should be checked. This can be done by loosely filling the hole with soil, leaves, straw, crumpled paper, or similar material. If a skunk is present, the animal will push their way out overnight and reopen the hole. If the plug remains undisturbed for a few nights, it’s safe to assume the hole is unoccupied and can be filled. Skunks and other den-seeking creatures can be permanently excluded with an L-shaped footer of welded wire or similar barriers.
- Harassment and Repellants: If a skunk is using the den, harassment or eviction using a one-way door system is recommended. Harassment can include adding light and noise to make a dark and quiet denning space unattractive. Repellants such as used kitty litter, commercial or homemade capsaicin, or castor oil repellents can also be tried. Avoid using deterrents based on predator urine due to inhumane conditions used in their creation
- Dealing with Skunks in Garages and Window Wells: If a skunk has wandered into your garage, simply make sure the door is open before dusk, as skunks are nocturnally active. If a skunk is trapped in a window well or similarly deep pit, provide a means of escape by placing a rough board long enough to serve as a ramp out of the well. Keep the board at no steeper than a 45-degree angle. Another method involves a garbage can and smelly cheese; once the skunk enters the can to eat the cheese, carefully raise the can out of the well and then tip it on its side so the skunk can leave.
- Neutralizing Skunk Odors: If you or a pet gets sprayed by a skunk, mix together 1 quart of 3-% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap. Wearing rubber gloves, wash with this solution immediately after the spraying occurs, but avoid getting the solution in eyes. This mixture should not be stored or made ahead of time, as it could explode if left in a bottle.
- Behave Respectfully Around Skunks: Skunks are generally easy-going and will not intentionally bother people. They give ample warning before they spray, including stamping their front feet, raising their tail, hissing, and short forward charges. If you see these signs, move away slowly and quietly. Skunks are nocturnal and non-ag
Preventing skunks from entering your property may seem like a daunting task, but with these tips and a bit of diligence, you can make your home less appealing to these unwelcome guests. Regular cleaning, securing food sources, utilizing light and repellents, and taking steps to secure your property can all help in your quest to live a skunk-free life. Remember, patience and consistency are key. Over time, these efforts will make your home a no-go zone for skunks, allowing you to enjoy your property without the worry of these smelly invaders.