For Release March 4, 2003

Dealing With Skunks

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Sunday evening I was at my in-law’s farm. Before we left, my wife and I were going to bring in the bird feeders to protect them against a marauding raccoon. As I rounded the corner of the house, in the dark, I heard something rustling in the leaves and I started to charge it, thinking it was that thieving raccoon. It only took me a couple of steps to realize that I was charging a skunk! I quickly found reverse and escaped with just a moderate amount of skunk scent on the bottom of my shoe. I was lucky!

Skunks have been very active lately. It seems that any place you drive, you can smell skunk. Skunks generally mate in February, so what you are smelling is love! Love struck skunks don’t do a good job of paying attention to traffic. They have other things on their mind so they are more likely to get hit by vehicles. The other time that you’ll find a lot of road kill skunks is in the fall, when Mama Skunk sends the kids out on their own. This is when we weed out the young skunks that aren’t very street wise!

So for the next six to nine weeks we’re going to have very hungry pregnant skunks foraging for food. You are very likely to see skunks active during the day right now. Skunks normally make up over half of their diet with insects, but insects are tough to come by this time of year, so they are busy foraging under bird feeders, looking for left over fruit, raiding trash cans and going after small rodents in an attempt to meet their increasing dietary needs.

During the winter months skunks become quite inactive. While not truly hibernating, they do sleep a lot. Those days are over. During her pregnancy Mama Skunk will also be busy looking for a den. She may use an old woodchuck or badger burrow, but she may just as readily use a culvert, an old abandoned building or under the floor of a perfectly good out building in your yard. In town they will even take up residence under mobile homes and decks.

Exclusion is the best prevention, but they are powerful diggers and can go through amazingly small holes. Since they have a steadily increasing appetite for the duration of their pregnancy, they will take advantage of any source of food, including pet food. If you feed your pets outside, only put out what they will eat at one time. Leaving food out regularly is a sure invitation to get some wild creature eating with your animals on a regular basis.

If a skunk is interested in taking up residence around your home, it may be necessary to have someone trap and relocate this animal. Trying to spray some kind of repellent to discourage the animal usually is not very successful. I have some good instructions if you want to try to live trap the animal yourself. Contact me for that information.

If you find yourself in the same boat I was in and need to deodorize yourself, or something you own including a pet, here’s a recipe that works better than anything else I’ve come across. Use one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda and one teaspoon liquid soap. Mix these together and thoroughly saturate the areas that have been sprayed. You can even wash a pet with this, but be careful not to get the solution in the eyes and rinse the animal well with plain water afterwards. Use fresh solution, don’t try to keep the mixed solution for later use.

A skunk can be a real stinker, there’s no doubt about that. But simply by understanding a little bit about the nature of the beast can help you reduce the chance that you are going to have problems with one of nature’s amazing creatures!


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