As I write this article there is an enormous skunk at large in my neighborhood. People have remarked that it is shockingly huge – grab-your-torches-and-pitchforks huge. So far Humphrey (I named him) has managed well and is being tolerated. He’s sprayed no one and tends to leave people, their pets, gardens, garbage cans, and property alone. But he must be eating something, and he’s a skunk – it’s only a matter of time before his need for food and space will come into conflict with someone’s interests, curiosity, or pets. I’d start a pool on his life, but I’ve grown fond of him.
But there were skunks here before Humphrey’s reign, and those striped fiends couldn’t understand that my inbred Basset Hound – though sometimes loud and obnoxious – was no threat behind his fence. They sprayed him, we cleaned him, and they generously reapplied. Needless to say, I’ve learned how to get rid of skunks by doing, but I’ve also done my research. Below you’ll find preventative as well as reactive strategies that have been used to great success by pest control professionals and average Joes alike.
Get rid of skunks by getting rid of skunk cuisine on your property. Skunks don’t have a huge feeding range – if one is hanging about your property there is a good chance it’s finding food there. Keep pet food, animal feed, and bird seed in chew-proof containers and safely housed at night. Skunks also love lazy gardeners – fallen fruits, nuts, or veggies are like chum in the water. And if you’re finding holes and dig marks on your lawn, the skunks are after one of their favorite foods: grubs and other subterranean insects. You can use residual insecticides to solve this problem, but it’s a slow process. You may be better off trapping or killing the problem skunk.
Defend your garbage can and waste. Skunks – like raccoons, stray dogs, and other small, clever mammals – love garbage cans and will seek out properties with poor or vulnerable sanitation. You can keep a chew-proof trash can skunk free by placing it in a garbage can rack or latching it to something to prevent it from getting knocked down. Make sure the lid is secure; if yours doesn’t latch securely, try using a bungee cord. Also, wait to toss particularly smelly waste until you or your sanitation service will take it away.
Getting rid of skunks with guns is easy. Where it’s both legal and safe, a .22 caliber rifle is the perfect remedy for a problem skunk. You want to shoot a skunk where it will stop them instantly – the heart, brain, or spine – or they may retaliate with chemical warfare. The use of a spotlight to “shine” skunks can make the job easier. If you do bag the skunk, contact your local waste removal service or health department for instructions concerning carcass disposal. Or, bury the defeated skunk in a hole three feet deep.
Live skunk traps are the best way to get rid of skunks.Unless they’ve been trapped before, skunks are pretty easy to capture. Ideally you want to place the traps near skunk dens or near their commonly traveled routes. Bacon, fish, cat food, peanut butter – anything fatty and/or stinky will work for bait. There are many different kinds of skunk traps, but I like models such as the one featured to the right because (A) they keeps skunks in the dark and calm, (B) they prevent skunks from raising their tails for full-force spraying and (C) they keep any secretions inside.
How to get rid of trapped skunks. So what do you do with your new prisoner? Well, because of risk of spreading rabies and general destruction, releasing skunks is illegal in many states. If you call animal control, a giddy cop will come over and shoot the skunk (I’ve witnessed this more than once). However, certain states and counties grant release permits to specially licensed professionals, and in some places you can legally release them on your own. If this is your plan, bring the skunk far, far away from your home and anyone’s property, lest they become someone else’s problem skunk. Keep your distance when releasing the animal by using string or fishing line for the door.
Skunk Repellents and Deterrents
Skunk repellents. Anyone in the pest control industry will tell you that the efficacy of so-called “skunk repellent” sprays and yard treatments is overstated. Skunks are animals that must find food or starve and they’re not going to walk away from a meal because of an unpleasant odor. They’ll simply walk past it or suffer it. Are we really so disconnected from nature that we cannot see through these gimmicks?
Still, the use of predator urine, moth balls, ammonia and other products may work to repel a skunk for a night or two, giving one time to exclude a skunk from its den and your property. You can save money by making your own pepper skunk repellent: mix hot sauce, black pepper, and pepper flakes together and there you have it.
Skunk deterrent sprinklers. Products like the ScareCrow, which use movement and water to get rid of skunks, will most likely work only for a short time. But whether you’re deterring skunks with lights, sprinklers, or noise, unless somehow brain damaged, the skunk will eventually discern that there isn’t any real danger present and will choose sustenance over a dry coat and intact dignity.
Fences. Skunks are terrible climbers but skilled diggers. If you’re going to use a fence to get rid of problem skunks, bury it at least a foot down and extend it six inches horizontally away from the fence. Lining the base with rocks will also improve your chances. Just remember that skunks can fit into narrow spaces, so any fence you erect will need to have gaps no larger than three to four inches.
Evicting Problem Skunks Living on Your Property
Skunks will sometimes burrow under porches, decks, foundations, crawl spaces, and outbuildings where they make their dens. For most people this is an unacceptable arrangement. The skunk’s anal gland is a constant threat, but skunks also dig up lawns in search of grubs, destroy gardens, and generally make a mess. Live trapping (above) is a great option. You can also exclude the skunk once it has left its den. You can make sure it’s gone by putting talcum powder or flour around its exit point. Wait for darkness and look for footprints (careful, there may be young inside). Once gone, you can fill in the den and keep the skunk from re-digging with a barrier of wire mesh, fencing, or any sufficiently strong material. Some people will use deterrent devices that utilize bright lights and/or jarring sounds to evict the skunks and keep them away. Flood lights and talk radio in or near dens have worked for others, but these are temporary deterrents and you must find a way to exclude the skunk or it will be back.
Getting rid of skunks living on your property isn’t too hard, but much care should be taken as skunks are known to carry the rabies virus and will defend themselves when cornered.
Get Rid of Skunk Smell
The unique chemistry of the sulfur thiols contained in the anal gland spray makes it both obscenely offensive and hard to remove. There are many home solutions that will take care of the smell after much toil, but this is the fastest, most effective homemade skunk smell remover I’ve come across: mix 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide with 1/4 cup baking soda and a teaspoon of hand dish soap. Rub it onto sprayed areas, let it work for several minutes, and finally rinse and repeat. The offending odor will be oxidized and rendered inert.
For large jobs, pest control professionals will use Neutroleum-Alpha or Epoleon, which are available from many online vendors–especially useful if you’re trying to get rid of skunk on a family pet.