There are undoubtedly more dangerous wildlife pests out there, but few elicit the primal fear the skunk does. You understand intellectually that an animal biting you is a more serious problem than skunk spray. At least, you can tell yourself that now. But when a skunk has its hind quarters pointed at you? That’s a whole different prospect.
Nobody wants to come across a grumpy skunk unexpectedly, least of all on their own property. Luckily, skunks are like every other kind of wildlife that can take up residence near your home (except smellier). They show up for specific reasons and want specific things. If you want to keep stink-free, it helps to know what these things are. Here’s everything you need to know about why skunks want to live near you, and how to keep them out.
Where They Came From
Skunks typically live in heavily forested areas, where food and shelter are plentiful. They either create burrows by digging under existing structures or steal them from smaller burrowing animals. Skunks are omnivorous, and not particularly picky. They’ll eat insects, flowers, small rodents, eggs, frogs, worms, and–most troublingly–human’s garbage. As solitary creatures, they generally live and forage alone. In winter, however, they’ll often live in small groups to keep warm.
Skunks traditionally stay close to home, rarely venturing further than 1½ miles from their burrow. This behavior may change during skunk breeding season, which traditionally takes place in mid winter. During breeding season, male skunks may venture further from their burrows seeking female skunks to mate with. Skunks will also venture away from their original burrows if food becomes scarce or predators move into the area.
What They Want
Skunks want what pretty much any other pest does: food and shelter. If a skunk wanders onto your property, it’s probably because their burrow wasn’t working out. This most commonly happens in the winter, when frozen ground makes it difficult to dig and food grows scarce. Chances are, the skunk smelled something in your garbage or saw your yard as a likely place to dig.
In winter, skunks spend most of their time hunkered underground where they can keep warm. If your home provides them with a place to do that, they’ll be all over it. Skunks generally dig beneath existing structures, both because it’s easier and because the structure provides cover and darkness. Skunks usually make their burrows under decks, porches, or sheds. They’ll stay beneath the structure sleeping for weeks at a time until they come up to eat.
When They Spray
Contrary to popular belief (or at least superstition), skunks are not particularly aggressive creatures. They only spray when they believe they’re in danger. Most of the time, skunks spray humans when those humans accidentally startle or provoke them. Unfortunately, this can be easy to do. Skunks have very poor eyesight, and may bumble into humans before they see what they’re looking at. They also tend to be disoriented when they wake up from their extended slumbers. Sleepy skunks spook especially easily.
If you think you have a skunk burrow on your property, we recommend you call us right away. Do not attempt to approach the burrow or the skunk under any circumstances. If you think the burrow is beneath your porch or deck, avoid that area. If the skunk is beneath the porch when you step on it, you may startle them enough to spray. If you accidentally encounter the skunk, back away from it slowly and steadily. Skunks are frightened by close proximity and sudden movements.
How to Keep Them Away
Skunks come near your home looking for two things: food and shelter. Keeping them away means depriving them of these two things. Skunks are attracted to all kinds of food. They’ll root through your trash, steal from bird feeders, or forage for fallen nuts and fruits. Keep the lid of your garbage can tied down whenever it isn’t in use. Only keep trash outdoors when it’s in the dumpster and enclosed in a sealed plastic bag. Keep bird seed, nuts, or fruits from piling up in your yard, where skunks could access them.
It’s slightly tougher to keep skunks from finding a place to shelter near your home. Though they’re terrible climbers, skunks are highly proficient diggers. You could invest in barriers for around your porch or deck, but they’d have to be buried. Skunks are particularly attracted to areas where the entrance to their burrows are concealed. Trimming down bushes and shrubs around the perimeter of your home could make it less enticing to would-be burrowers.
Skunks are, ultimately, unfairly demonized. They’re not looking to hurt or inconvenience you; they’re just trying to get by. We’re not saying you should feel bad about keeping them away from your home, mind you. Keeping skunk and human residences separate is best for everyone. Especially your nose.
If you ever end up with a grumpy, stinky neighbor (well, one who’s a skunk!), remember that you can always call Varment Guard for an SOS. We’ll make sure your skunk problems are safely, effectively solved, and you come out smelling like a rose.BACK TO BLOG