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.
Don't forget to watch our video with Wildlife Conflict Specialist, Gwenevere along with Animal Educator, Fang. Here you will 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.
- 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 neighbourhood 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.