Their distinct, foul, and recognizable smell gives it away every time. You might not even spot one. However, that scent tells you a skunk or a family of skunks are nearby. You just have to be sure that nearby isn’t in your yard, under your house, or in an outbuilding.

Skunks are nocturnal and quite shy. If you do spot one, stop in your tracks and let it pass. (A skunk with a double white stripe passed by our front yard one evening. His black fur glistened. I was amazed at his beauty.)

A Skunk’s Warning

David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, told me standing still was the right thing to do. “Skunks want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them,” he says. “And they will give you a warning before they are about to spray. It’s as if they’re telling you to back off.”

If they stomp their feet, hiss, tweet like a bird, and stand up on their hind legs, they’re getting ready to spray. “That gives you ample time to retreat,” says Mizejewski. “They only spray if they feel threatened.”

Keeping Skunks Away From Your House

Skunks like to burrow. Piles of old tree branches and leaves are good hiding places for skunks. They also find homes in hollowed-out logs and hide in tall grassy areas. “If you want to dissuade skunks from coming too close to your house, don’t build a brush pile right up against your house,” Mizejewski says. “Make sure there are no entry points into any crawl spaces, including basements and decks. Keep your lawn mowed.”

Can You Co-Exist with Skunks?

Skunks usually sleep during the day and when they’re awake, they eat insects, larvae, earthworms, grubs, rodents, lizards, salamanders, snakes, frogs, birds, moles, and eggs. They also eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, nuts, and fungi

Identifying Skunk Damage to Your Property

Unfortunately, they can cause damage to your yard and can enter your home by burrowing holes in weak points in your foundation. Depending on where they dig, they can cause damage to electric wiring and plumbing.

Skunk Removal From Your Home, Yard

If you suspect a family of skunks has taken up residence in your backyard, call your local animal control or wildlife control officer. A pest control company will also know what to do. DIY methods of turning on the sprinklers or natural skunk repellents such as pepper spray can frighten a skunk and can cause it to release that odorous skunk’s smell.  

Don’t use a skunk trap. You can get sprayed transporting the trapped critter. Plus, trapping and relocating skunks to a new habitat is a bad idea. The new location can lack the skunks’ food, water, and shelter needs. And, according to the Humane Society of the United States, other critters may already be living there who won’t want to share food and shelter. This can end badly for the newcomer.  

Following are other ways to keep skunks from creating a home on your property:

  • Rake any food sources such as berries, nuts, or fallen fruits in your yard.
  • Clean up piles of grass clippings. Some may contain seeds that attract skunks.
  • Ripe fruits and vegetables should be harvested as soon as possible. Otherwise, skunks will enjoy the buffet.
  • Place a tray under your bird feeder and pick up excess seeds because skunks like to feast on these seeds, too.
  • Don’t leave out cat food for strays or any other pet food. Your intentions are good, but skunks will eat this, too. 
  • Storing trash in a tightly closed garbage can keeps skunks from opening the lids.
  • Use an enclosed compost bin. Skunks will eat rotting fruits and veggies.
  • Use rocks or fencing to close off any open spaces.
  • Store piles of logs and lumber away from your house.
  • Install a motion-sensor light in your yard. Skunks don’t like bright light.
  • Skunks don’t like certain smells. They’re afraid of coyotes and dogs. A good skunk repellent is coyote or dog urine. You can spray this repellent in your yard to keep the skunks from entering. Mothballs, which are poisonous if eaten, can also be used. Predator urine is a much better option because it does no harm to animals or small children.

Many of these tips can be used to get rid of get rid of raccoons and other wild animals. 

Skunk Facts

Skunks mate once a year between February and May and litters are born from mid-spring to mid-summer. Usually, a litter consists of four to six skunk pups. They’re weaned at two months, and by the fall, they establish their own den. They don’t hibernate in the winter and can be found in your yard year-round.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell

“It’s rare that people get sprayed,” says Mizejewski. If you do get sprayed, take off your clothes and wash them a handful of times. A skunk’s spray permeates clothing, skin, and (dog) fur. It can last for weeks if left untreated.

No: Tomato Juice

Bathing in tomato juice is folklore. It masks the smell, but it doesn’t get rid of it. 

Yes: Hydrogen Peroxide

A much better remedy is a mixture of one part hydrogen peroxide, one part baking soda, and six parts water. Soak your clothes in this mixture for at least an hour. Then place clothes in a washing machine; use your regular detergent. After that cycle, hang clothes to dry. Using the dryer can infuse the odor into the fibers.

To remove skunk odor from your skin, soak in a tub with one quart of hydrogen peroxide, a half a cup of baking soda, and one teaspoon of dish soap or laundry detergent. You can shower off with soap. This may take a few soakings.

How To Get Rid of Skunk Smell on a Dog?

“Dogs are the most common recipients of skunk spray,” says Mizejewski. “They see something moving and want to chase after it. If they get sprayed in their eyes, in addition to a burning sensation, it can cause temporary blindness. But the smell is the worst part.”

Immediately wash your dog after it has been sprayed by a skunk. Run a tub and fill with one quart of three percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter of a cup of baking soda, and a teaspoon of dish soap.

Wear gloves while you’re washing your dog so the smell doesn’t seep into your skin. You may have to wash your dog a few times a week. The smell, depending on how much spray the dog endured, can last up to three weeks. It does lessen over time with bathing.

Main image credit: “Skunks,” by Greg Schechter, CC 2.0

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