Skunks are those smelly, little, wild neighbours of ours that many people fear. We were pretty cautious of them in our early years too, but we’ve learned so much about them and we’d like to pass this information on to you. Below you will find many of the common concerns along with numerous solutions.
Enjoy our video with Wildlife Conflict Specialist, Gwenevere along with Education Animal, Fang!
- I am worried about my cat getting hurt by the skunk.
Skunks and cats get along very well. In fact, we have had reports from people that their neighborhood skunk and their cats eat out of the same bowl in the barn. The only time when it can be a problem is when feral tom cats fight with skunks over territory.
- I’m afraid the skunk will spray me or my pet.
Skunks are very unaggressive creatures and do not want an encounter with pets or people any more than you want one with them. They have a very small amount of the musk, which is their only means of defense, and if it is used up it will take up to 10 days to rebuild. Be aware of the warning signs when encountering a skunk - tail up and stomping feet. Talk quietly and move away slowly. Skunks only spray when they believe their life is in danger.
- I’m afraid they will have rabies.
Although skunks can contract rabies there has not been a recorded case of rabies in Alberta since 1994. Skunks behaving unusually should be reported but rabies is not a high priority concern with skunks in our backyards.
- The skunks are always tearing open the garbage bags in the alley.
If someone put a free buffet in your neighbourhood once a week wouldn’t you come for the feast? Lobbying communities to put in better garbage containers and recycling services and keeping the garbage off the streets will stop the skunks from tearing open the bags. Easily accessible garbage also will attract crows, magpies, fox, coyote, stray cats, and even bear so it really isn’t a wildlife problem but a messy human issue.
- The skunks are digging up my lawn and doing damage to my yard.
Skunks are omnivores but do love grubs, insects, and voles. If your yard has an abundance of these creatures the skunks will be doing you a favour to eliminate them. If there is a large amount of digging around your yard you should call an expert in lawn care to investigate as we have seen these cases result in the landowner finding an infestation of things like grubs that needed to be dealt with.
- There are so many skunks around my neighbourhood.
Remember that all wildlife respond to food and shelter. When food is plentiful and there are lots of safe places to live they will not only move in but also have larger litters. In normal conditions, skunks will have only a couple of young each year but when food and shelter is abundant they will have litters up to 10. Communities that have lots of buildings to dig under and open garbage, pet food, low-lying bird feeders, heavily laden fruit trees, and open compost are a paradise for skunks. In these conditions they will have the maximum size litters, so we are the ones really creating the over-population.
Why Trapping, Relocating, or Euthanizing Isn’t the Solution
- Wildlife instinctually will have more young when there is an abundance of food and shelter. If you remove skunks form an area but don’t change the reasons for them coming in the first place you will find that the next skunks to come to the area will have much larger litters - as many as 8-12. If you evict the skink from your yard by simply taking away the food and shelter you provide, the skunk will go back to a more natural way of living and will have far more normal size litters - 2-4.
- If you remove a large male who owns the territory, research shows that up to 5 younger males will come in and take over. You are far better to have one older dominant male than 5 young, teenage skunks in your area.
- Trapping and removing a skunk can be cruel by resulting in babies left under the building to simply starve. Dead young under your deck can smell terribly in your home too.
- Keeping our yards skunk “unfriendly” will also keep your yards from attracting unwanted insects, rodents, many types of wildlife, and stray cats.
Solutions that Work
- Ensure you have a yard that will not bring the skunks in to live and eat. Keep pet food, garbage, compost, and bird seed cleaned up. Keep your yard neat and organized. Stacks of old wood and other clutter create skunk habitat.
- Report yards and spaces within the community that are trouble spots.
- If a skunk is living under a step or concrete step, try digging a trench along the side where the entry hole is located, opening up the space. Skunks prefer an enclosed space to live in and will vacate a space that can be seen into.
- Skunks can also be evicted by installing an LED trouble light (the kind that doesn't get hot) into a den space.
- Skunks can be deterred from a yard (as long as there is no food available) with the use of coyote or cougar urine (found at Sportsman supply stores), motion activated sprinklers, or motion activated lights placed close enough to the ground to detect their movement.
- Skunks cannot jump! Fences that are 2 feet tall will stop a skunk from entering a building or area as long as it cannot be dug under. Skunks often get trapped in uncovered window wells as they cannot climb or jump out.
- Consider not feeding stray or feral cats. The free roaming cat population is another serious community problem on its own and leaving food out will attract skunks into the community and also contribute to the larger litter sizes. If you choose to feed these cats, feed them at the same time every day and remove the food as soon as they're done eating.
- Learn more about these quiet creatures so as to not feel fear at the sight of black and white fur.
- Pass on the information you have learned to friends and neighbours.
Watch our video to learn how to properly close up a den site. If done incorrectly the skunk may return and you will have wasted your time. It is also important to make sure the den is unoccupied when closing it up. Crumpled newspaper in the hole overnight will determine whether or not the den is empty. This and other important details can be found in the video below.