Common Name: Striped skunk
Scientific Name: Mephitis mephitis
- Adult body length (without tail): 13 to 18 inches
- Adult body weight: 6 to 10 pounds
- Gestation period: 63 days
- Litters per year: 1
- Litter size: 2 to 10 young (usually 4 to 6)
- Breeding season: February through March
- Birthing season: April through May
- Age at which young are weaned: 6 to 7 weeks
- Activity period: Night
- Range: 4 square miles or less
- Primary foods: Meats, fish, pet food, insects, fruits, vegetables
Skunk Pest Status
Skunk activity around buildings may go unnoticed for awhile until one takes up occupancy beneath a porch, deck, slab foundation or outbuilding floor or has a confrontation with another animal, such as a dog, leaving the offensive scent as an indicator of its presence or reminder of an encounter with someone′s canine companion. A faint lingering skunk odor is occasionally detected where skunks have fed or traveled, even though the animals have not scent-sprayed the area. Female skunks often have their springtime litters in the cavities they excavate beneath porches, decks and buildings. Lawns infested with scarab beetle larvae are subject to grubbing behavior by skunks (as well as raccoons) which readily feed on these insects. The resulting damage to sod certainly contributes to the skunk′s status as an urban pest. Skunks have been found infected with an array of diseases that may or may not affect humans. These include histeriosis, mastitis, distemper, Q fever, histoplasmosis, microfilaria, and by far the most important, rabies. As with most smaller fury mammals, skunks are also an attractive nuisance to dogs. The inexperienced, and even experienced, dog will investigate the trail of a skunk. The dog nearly always comes out the loser in these encounters. When the dog tangles with a skunk in the woods away from home, the only concern is decontaminating the dog; but if that occurs under a porch or patio deck, the decontamination problem is substantially greater.
Harassment / Intimidation
The placement of several floodlights under the floor of the opposite side of the building from their normal entrance has been useful in driving skunks from beneath a building or from the interior of an outbuilding.
Food sources attractive to skunks should be made inaccessible whenever possible. Pet food dishes should be brought indoors at night. Trash cans and bins containing food garbage should be secured. Fallen fruit should be cleared away from beneath fruit trees located near dwellings. When skunks dig in lawns in search of grubs and other insect prey, attempts to resolve the situation by applying appropriately labeled residual insecticides to control the turfgrass insect pests occasionally remedy the problem, but not immediately.
Physical / Mechanical
As with many other vertebrate pests, the best solution to skunk problems beneath buildings is to screen or block them out. Such exclusion is essential for all entrances or openings in the foundations of homes and outbuildings. Spaces beneath porches, stairs, and mobile homes should be closed off to exclude skunks. Once skunks have made their home beneath a building, the problem is a little more difficult. One must be sure the animal has left before closing-off the entrance. That can sometimes be accomplished by sprinkling a smooth layer of flour or non-toxic tracking powder on the ground at the suspected entrance to form a tracking patch and then examining the area for skunk tracks soon after dark. When tracks lead out of the entrance, the opening usually can then be safely closed off. If the number of skunks present is unknown, the tracking patch can be supplemented by hanging a section of 1/2 inch mesh hardware cloth over the opening, hinged at the top and left loose on the other three sides. It must be larger than the opening, so that it cannot swing inward. The skunks will push it open to leave but ordinarily cannot re-enter. Specially-constructed one-way doors that better prevent re-entry are sometimes needed to outsmart a clever skunk. Buried wire fencing can prevent skunks from excavating or re-entering beneath porches, shallow decks and slab foundations. A skirting or band of 1/2 inch mesh hardware cloth must be fastened tightly to the above ground structure of the porch, deck or foundation. The lower portion of the fence should extend 12 to 18 inches beneath the ground and then 6 inches outward horizontally, below grade. The resulting barrier will discourage skunks and other burrowing animals (e.g., groundhogs) from digging beneath it.
Live-catch box-type traps (24″ x 8″ x 7″ and 32″ x 12″ x 10″ or similar) constructed of heavy- gauge plastic or sleaved wire cage traps offer the best method of removing skunks from beneath or around buildings. The best traps for skunks are the enclosed type traps which reduce the chances of the trapper being sprayed by the captured animal. Varment Guard technicians place such traps where the animals are entering the building or on active trails. Effective baits include fish (canned or fresh), fish-flavored cat food, frankfurters, cooked bacon and mayonnaise-based condiments. Skunks are relatively easy to trap, and if the trap containing the skunk is handled with minimum shaking and disturbance, it can be transported without incident. If ordinary wire cage-type live-catch traps are being used, protection can be afforded by slowly draping a piece of drop cloth, sheet plastic, canvas, burlap or folded cardboard carefully over the trap prior to moving it. This will keep the skunk in the dark and it will be less apt to release its scent. If the trap is covered when set, it may help encourage skunks to enter it. The likelihood of a trapped skunk spraying while being approached and carried depends on its recent experiences with other animals and humans. Like raccoons, skunks will try to drag sod, mulch and soil through the wire mesh and into the trap with it. Therefore, unsleaved traps having open wire mesh floors should not be set on lawns, if possible, to avoid unsightly damage to the surrounding turfgrass.
Although not a method practiced by Varment Guard, skunks can in some situations be spotlighted and shot at night, assuming that the shooting can be done legally and safely, if the rural property-owner is so inclined.
Skunk Odor Control
A mixture of hydrogen peroxide (1 quart), baking soda (1/4 cup) and dishwashing liquid (1 teaspoon) has been found to be an effective odor neutralizer for getting rid of skunk scent on skin, dogs, clothing, equipment, vehicle interiors and customers′ personal property. Note: This mixture may discolor fabrics and items having delicate finishes. The user assumes all responsibility for its preparation and use.
Repellents. The use of naphthalene crystals (mothballs) and rags soaked with household ammonia to drive skunks from occupied spaces beneath the porches and buildings is often not effective and is not a method recommended by Varment Guard. Also, both of these methods carry the risk of odor penetration into the living and workspaces of the building being treated. Lawn damage due to skunk grubbing behavior may be alleviated by scattering MilorganiteTM over the lawn. Smoke cartridges and fumigants. Skunk dens found away from buildings can be targeted using gas cartridges. The same carbon dioxide and sulfur-generating gas cartridges used for groundhogs are also effective on skunks when used in the same manner. However, for safety reasons the use of asphyxicants or fumigants should not be used in skunk dens that adjoin or undermine the foundation of occupied buildings. Dispatching / Euthanasia. Carbon monoxide (CO) is used by Varment Guard to displace the oxygen in an airtight chamber designed to accommodate one or more live-catch traps. This humane method asphyxiates the captured animal while still in the trap. Because of the potential of spreading rabies, releasing trapped skunks elsewhere is not advisable and is illegal in Ohio. Dispatching / Euthanasia. Carbon monoxide (CO) is used by Varment Guard to displace the oxygen in an airtight chamber designed to accommodate one or more live-catch traps. This method asphyxiates the captured animal while still in the trap. Because of the potential of spreading rabies and distemper, relocating and releasing trapped raccoons is not advisable and is illegal in some states.