Love them or hate them, the black and white beasties can be troublesome if they’ve taken over your backyard. Not only do you, or your pets, risk getting a squirt of noxious skunk scent, but they can also carry rabies.
Related to polecats and weasels, skunks are scavengers that will chow down on anything, including insects, small mammals and eggs, to leaves, nuts and fruit, often digging holes, or pushing through fences to get to their chosen target. They have few predators and although edible, are bony, without enough flesh to warrant risking getting sprayed.
Tending towards solitude, except during the breeding season in early spring, skunks are crepuscular, can be territorial, and will den up over the colder months, rather than being true hibernators.
Many people keep de-scented skunks as pets, and they can make interesting and adorable family companions; however, wild, free roaming skunks need to be dealt with before they take over your yard.
The first steps to take are to make your backyard less appealing to these inquisitive animals. Remove anything they can eat, such as fallen nuts, berries and if you have a bird feeder, rake up the debris that is scattered by the birds. Ensure your trash cans are securely sealed, and if possible, store them in a garage or shed to stop any scents attracting the scavengers. Skunks will seek out dark, secluded spots to hide up, so block any spaces under your porch or decking, and move the woodpile into a shed. Trimming back any undergrowth can also deter skunks spending time on your property.
Installing motion sensitive lights can also put off the dusk loving critters. Using a motion detector will save on electricity as the light will only be triggered when the skunk enters your backyard. A similar idea is to install motion activated sprinklers.
There are a couple of other tricks to try, too. Certain scents serve as effective skunk repellents if used regularly, and by spraying them around your property, will ensure skunks go elsewhere for their kicks.
The best ones to try are:
Dog urine – if you have a family dog, this one is easy. But hardware stores often sell products containing dog urine
Pepper spray – or a good sprinkling of cayenne pepper
Ammonia – rags soaked in ammonia placed around the perimeter will deter skunks
Citrus scents – scatter fresh lemon, lime or orange peel around your backyard
In most US states it is illegal to harm or kill skunks, so if you really are stuck with a determined one, it’s best to call animal control to deal with the problem.