Skunk Conflict Solutions

Seeing skunks in your neighborhood is nothing unusual or dangerous.  Skunks will not intentionally bother people, and benefit humans greatly because they eat insects and rodents we consider pests. They are active during twilight (nocturnal) and like to sleep under or in tight-fitting spaces. Please be sure to eliminate food sources around the yard (like food bowls, fallen fruit from trees, low-hanging bird feeders, etc.).

Skunks have five toes on the front paws and four on the back, but the tracks are sometimes mistaken for a common cat. Skunks can’t retract their claws, so their tracks have a large nail impression.

If you do have a conflict with a skunk, please avoid calling Animal Care and Control, or a pest control company.  By state law, these animals must be killed when trapped by professionals, and it’s typically not done in a humane way.  Common means of killing by wildlife control companies are injecting acetone into the animal’s chest with a syringe and drowning, both very inhumane and unnecessary.

Remember that trapping does not work as a long term solution.  What does?  Read our tips below.

Under the Porch, Deck, or Stairs?

If you’re dealing with a skunk taking care of their young, can you possibly wait until the babies are a little older? If you can, the skunks will leave on their own.  If you can’t, try putting socks or tennis balls soaked in vinegar nearby.  You should also put a one-way door or L-shaped barrier to prevent future reentry, but make sure there are no babies left behind first.

On Your Window Well

Skunks have poor eyesight and can sometimes get into unlikely situations.  If you have a skunk on your window well, try putting a wide board, slanted at a 45 degree angle into the window well (add a towel or rope for traction).  The skunk should climb out on his own.

You can also try lowering a large bucket or garbage can with cheese, tuna, or sardines inside into the window well.  If you drill holes into the can to thread a rope, you can more easily lower and lift it out of the window well.  Make sure the can is on its side so the skunk can walk in.  If the skunk starts to stamp his feet or raise her tail, slowly move away until the behavior ceases and you can try again.  Once the skunk is fully inside, slowly tip up the can and put to ground level.  Make sure to cover your window wells when you’re finished.

In Your Woodpiles

Chili powder is a nontoxic irritant that should deter any mammals.  Sprinkle the chili powder anywhere the skunks are frequenting.

You can also place vinegar soaked socks or tennis balls, or spray directly on areas the skunks are going.  You should reapply daily.

On Your Property

Your bird feeder may be the issue.  Birds can leave messes behind when feasting from your bird feeder and rats may see this as a delectable feast for them to enjoy.

  • Reduce the amount of seeds that fall to the ground.  You can use a seed tray under your feeder, look for bird food that does not create a lot of waste (like shelled peanuts, sunflower hearts, suet, nectar, thistle, cracked corn, and hulled millet), and be sure to sweep up fallen seeds.
  • Store birdseed in an air and watertight container that is rodent-proof.
  • Place feeders as far away from your home as possible, and use baffles to prevent all animals from climbing the pole.

If your bird feeder is not the issue, it may be that your yard could use some tidying up.

  • Don’t leave trash out overnight, and make sure trash is always stored in bins with a secure lid. This will help reduce conflicts with other animals as well!
  • Don’t leave pet food or pet droppings outside.
  • Remove wood or rubbish from your property.

Digging In Your Lawn

This would probably only be an issue when it rains, and once your lawn dries out, digging will stop.  You can try natural repellents like Milky Spore applied to the lawn, or sprinkle cayenne pepper on localized digging.

Prevent Denning

Before taking any measure of prevention, please ensure there are no animals currently in the area.  You can do this by putting loose soil, leaves, straw, or crumbled paper in the hole.  If after three or four days this material is undisturbed, you can be confident the hole is unoccupied.  You can prevent skunks or other creatures from denning in these holes with an L-shaped footer of welded wire or similar barriers.

If a skunk is denning, try putting socks or tennis balls soaked in vinegar nearby.  You should also put a one-way door or L-shaped barrier to prevent future reentry, but make sure there are no babies left behind first.  You can also try light and noise.

Repellents

To deter skunks from denning or other unwanted presences, you can use a mild repellent, like kitty litter, near or inside the den so that the skunk must pass through it to get out.  You can also try capsaicin or caster oil repellents.

Skunks have a strong sense of smell. You can make a homemade repellent by using a mixture of hot peppers, onion, jalapeno, cayenne pepper, and water. Boil for a few minutes then strain and pour inside a spray bottle. Each dose should last up to 5 days.

You can also use high-frequency ultrasonic repellents

Please never buy skunk deterrents based on predator urine, as these are made under very inhumane conditions and unnecessary to effectively repel skunks.

In Your Garage or Shed

Make sure you get rid of wood, debris, rocks, or other covers that may look like an attractive den site. Close off spaces beneath your deck and porch to keep skunks from making their den there. You can skunk proof these areas using heavy gauge galvanized hardware cloth. Can also cover entry points with concrete, sheet metal, or wire mesh.

Skunks are nocturnal, so if you simply leave the door open before dusk, the skunk will typically leave on their own.  Ensure that things like bird seed or pet food are secured in tight containers. Please make sure there are no babies in the garage or shed before evicting the skunk.

Rabies Concerns

Skunks are nocturnal, but do sometimes look for food during the day, especially during baby season in the spring.  Do not be concerned if you see a skunk during the day.  You should only be concerned if the skunk is exhibiting abnormal behaviors, such as limb paralysis, circling, unprovoked aggression, disorientation, or staggering.

If you do exhibit a skunk with the behavior described above, you should call your local animal control officer or police department. However, keep in mind that by state law, these animals must be killed when trapped by professionals, and it’s typically not done in a humane way.

Threats of Spraying

Skunks will not intentionally bother a human.  They will only spray if they or their young feel threatened.  Even then, there are many signs they give off to warn prior to a spray, including stomping their feet, raising their tail, hissing, and twisting their bottom towards you.  If you encounter a skunk giving off this type of body language, simply move away slowly and quietly.

If you or your pet are sprayed, don’t panic.  A tomato juice bath will only reduce the stench, so try this recipe from the HSUS for effective stench removal, that is safe for humans and pets:

Mix together:

  • 1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide (available at any pharmacy)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap

Wearing rubber gloves, wash with this solution immediately after the spraying occurs. DO NOT get the solution in eyes. (If you don’t have peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap on hand, use vinegar diluted with water.)

Caution: Do NOT store this mixture or make it ahead of time, as the mixture could explode if left in a bottle.

Rub the mixture all over and scrub deep to neutralize the odor — however, if you’re washing your dog or cat, don’t leave the mixture on longer than you have to as peroxide can bleach fur. Rinse the solution off thoroughly, and the smell should be gone.

Please note: Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) is not a wildlife rescue and is unable to address concerns or assist with wildlife emergencies. Please utilize the resources on our website to find the appropriate organization to contact. Submissions to HAP through our contact form or email will not be able to be addressed.