Like other varmints – raccoons, possums, etc. – skunks can create real problems in your yard, upending trash cans, digging burrows, leaving their often diseased droppings and even scaring your pets.
They can also leave one other unmistakable sign of their presence: a pungent, offensive odor that is nearly impossible to escape. For all of these reasons, it is very clear that skunks are – and always will be – unwelcome guests at any house or yard, but getting rid of them can often be a nightmare task.
However, if you are experiencing some of the tell-tale signs of a skunk’s presence in your yard, it’s important to note that all hope is not lost. In fact, there are some things you can do today that just may rid your yard of skunks forever; and there are even more strategies for keeping them away for good.
To help you do just that, in this article we have outlined and explained several of the most popular and effective skunk deterrents – methods which have worked well for other people dealing with this same dilemma.
How to Tell if You Have a Skunk Problem
Before we discuss how to keep skunks out of your yard, let us first talk about how you can identify a skunk problem in the first place. Skunks are a unique animal. Because of this, they tend to leave many revealing signs when they have invaded your yard. Some of these indicators include:
- Holes or burrows. Skunks are natural burrowers, and small holes in the ground can be a sign that you have a skunk problem. Typically these holes will be very small and shallow. However, larger and deeper holes very near to your house or close to other structures can also be a sign that one or more skunks are lurking nearby.
- Musk. Perhaps the simplest and fastest way to determine you have a skunk problem is by their musk or natural smell. In fact, the infamous odor that skunks spray off when they feel threatened is nothing more than a concentrated form of their own natural musk. This is an unmistakable smell and one that cannot – and should not – be ignored.
- Skunk feces. In most cases, the feces of a skunk measures about two inches long by roughly a half-inch wide. This feces will usually contain the remnants of dead insects – one of the skunk’s primary sources of food.
- Strewn trash. If the outside trash is strewn about night after night – and if other signs of a skunk are present – it might be time to take notice.
How to Get Rid of Skunks in Your Yard
In a moment we will discuss how to prevent skunks from invading your yard, but in this section we will briefly discuss how to get rid of skunks who have already made themselves at home in your yard.
Skunks are a type of burrowing animal who will often seek shelter in the earlier months of winter. They will also seek a private place to mate in the latter half of the same season. These shelters can be in places like basements, under your house, under sheds, beneath barns, etc. When a male approaches a female and is rejected, that female may shoot a defensive spray, resulting in a powerful odor that is difficult to ignore. Skunks may also have a litter of two to ten kits in the spring months, and these young skunks need to be handled very carefully, as even the slightest startle will cause them to use their pungent spray.
If you suspect skunks are under your house, your best strategy is to locate their entry point and then use traps to capture them. However, if there is also a litter of kits under the house – kits who are too young as yet to leave the den – you might need to hire a professional to have them eradicated. Then, once all the skunks have been safely removed you will need to meticulously seal off all potential entry points to ensure the problem does not repeat. Chemical sprays can do a great job at removing the musk – musk that could last for up to 6 months if not dealt with properly.
Another skunk removal technique is known as “exclusion.” This works well for skunks that have made their den under decks, porches and sheds. To use this technique, the first step is to seal up all the borders around the structure, leaving just one entry and exit point. Skunks are notoriously bad jumpers, but excellent burrowers, so when building these borders or barriers, be sure to sink them about a foot underground with a remaining three feet above the ground. Once all the borders have been sealed, place your traps near the one entry point you have left open. This will give you the best chance to catch the skunk as it wanders out at night to find food. Again, if there are kits in the den that are too young to leave the nest you may have to hire a professional exterminator to handle the problem.
How to Keep Skunks Out of Your Yard
Naturally, your best bet for avoiding a skunk problem in your yard is to discourage them from coming at all. Keep in mind that skunks are a nocturnal animal for the most part, which means they are usually active at night in their pursuit of food and shelter. With that in mind, here are some sure-fire techniques for discouraging skunks and keeping them away from your yard.
Cover the Garbage Cans
As the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This is a good saying to keep in mind when trying to prevent skunks from entering your yard. Garbage cans that are left open and easily accessible at night are like welcome mats for hungry skunks and other animals. These animals are not incredibly picky about what they eat and will rummage through your garbage night after night if you let them, usually leaving behind a real mess and their unmistakable odor. For this reason, it is important that you seal all garbage cans with tight, well-fitting lids. You can also store trash cans in the garage or another covered area to cut down on the aroma the trash is giving off.
Do Not Leave Pet Food Out
A good rule of thumb when it comes to pet food is this: If your pets love to eat it, so will skunks and other animals. Leaving pet food out at night can be like a welcome invitation to all the hungry critters roaming around at night, and the more frequently you allow the pet food to remain out the more frequent these skunk visits will be.
Remove other Food and Water Sources
Other food sources around your home and yard can also lure skunks to your place. For instance, if you have fruit-bearing bushes or trees, it is crucial that you do not leave any fallen fruit on the ground. Instead, you should pick it up regularly and dispose of it properly in a lidded garbage can. You should also remove any natural or manmade water sources. Be sure to drain any standing water and build barriers in front of natural ponds and lagoons.
As we mentioned above, skunks are nocturnal animals who typically hunt for food at night. They do this for their own safety more than anything else, protecting themselves from predators. Because skunks prefer to hunt at night, leaving a light on outside your home at night may frighten them just enough to move on to darker areas to hunt. If you do not want to leave a constant light on all night, you can opt for one with a motion detector instead. This strategy for discouraging skunks is not foolproof, however, and should not be relied on as the only strategy you use. After a while the skunk will grow accustomed to the extra light once it understands it represents no extra danger.
Hot Pepper Spray
A hot pepper spray makes for a great skunk repellant. It is also one of the most affordable deterrents you can employ. Simply create a liquid mixture using water, chopped onions, jalapenos and cayenne pepper. Mix all of the ingredients together and then strain it using a colander or cheese cloth. Place the remaining liquid into a spray bottle of some kind, and spray the mixture over fruit bearing plants, under decks and porches, etc. The skunks do not like the smell and will usually stay away. Note: If you use this method, you will have to repeat it about 2-3 days to maintain the concentration you need for a deterrent.
Another great deterrent spray is the urine of other predators – such as dogs or coyotes – which can be purchased in many home improvement stores. Skunks will not come near an area in which they fear a predator is lurking.
Use Sprinklers to Scare the Skunks Away
Last but not least, automatic sprinklers, also known as “scarecrow sprinklers,” can be a great way to deter skunks and other animals searching for food or shelter in the confines of your yard. These sprinklers are equipped with a motion sensor that trips a spray of water every time a skunk comes within so many feet of it. The skunk will then associate this frightening experience with your yard and will probably move on to a safer and less problematic hunting ground.