Skunks belong to the weasel family which includes mink, wolverine,
ferret, otter, marten, fisher and many others. They all have a common
characteristic - anal glands filled with potent scent which can be used to
mark territory, or as with the skunk, a weapon. When skunks become a
problem around people, this weapon is always the first consideration when
solving the problem.
Skunks will burrow under things - decks, sheds, etc.,where they sleep
through a bitter cold spell, or make a nest in the spring to raise a litter.
When a garage door is left open, a wandering skunk will enter and find a
place to hide, such as a under lawn mower deck, or in a pile of junk.
Skunks follow structure when travelling and when waddling along the
side of a house may fall into an open window well. If this happens, placing
a board in the well allows the skunk to climb out.
Male skunks will fight over females in breeding season (Feb. - March)
and spray each other during the contest. They pick a fight arena that
provides overhead security - a low deck does just fine. The odor from this
activity will fade over time. If it does not fade, there may be a dead skunk
rotting away. In this case the carcass needs to be removed.
When a solitary skunk is the problem, trapping is the usual solution.
Bait a cage style trap on the skunks travel path and cover it with a blanket
or something that keeps the skunk covered when you remove it, since most
skunks will not shoot a target they cannot see. I say “shoot” because the
anal glands can direct the juice as a rifle shot stream or a shotgun like
blast. There is a skunk specific cage trap (MPC-924) that is fully enclosed,
sold by Minnesota Trapline Products. This trap allows for the trapper to
approach the trap and pick it up without getting sprayed.
Skunks are omnivores, so a bait that provides a sight and smell
attraction will work the best. Where there are free roaming cats a sweet
bait/lure combination such as marshmallow with vanilla scent is
recommended. Place a small sample of the bait outside the trap and trail a
liquid scent lure up to the trap. Put the bulk of the bait behind the trap’s
Between May and August the number of skunks in a location may
include a litter. The female will leave the nest to forage, leaving the litter
behind until they are old enough to go with her. Do not trap unless you are
sure the young are venturing out or they may die in the den, and create
odor. When you are certain the litter is leaving the nest, set multiple baited
cage traps around the entrance.
Alternately set an unbaited cage trap to block the entrance. The
mother will be leading her young out of the den, and will get caught first.
Have several more cages set against the main cage to catch the little ones.
Sometimes the mother will be in the cage with the others milling around her
loose. These can be scooped up with a net but will probably spray. An
immature skunk spray does not have as much gusto, volume or range as
Immature skunks spray at random but healthy adults will generally
spray only when convinced there is a threat. The first warning is stamping
of the front paws. If the threat does not back down, the skunk will turn to
point it’s rear toward the target. Spray is let go when the threat continues to
advance. Savvy trappers learn how to read this body language and use it to
get quite close without the skunk spraying.
Skunks are legally classified as fur bearing mammals and are subject
to state law. Some states prohibit relocation and release of problem skunks
due to rabies concerns. The method used to kill a problem skunk should be
cleared with the state governing body, usually the department of fish and
When you are sure all of the skunks are gone, any openings leading
under the house, deck or crawl space should be sealed to prevent future
The procedure is as follows: dig a shallow trench around the structure.
Bend a piece of galvanised weld wire (mesh dimension is one inch by one
inch) to span from the opening to the outside edge of the trench. Bend the
wire to cover the opening and lay it down in the trench, about one foot out
from the bend. Fix the wire to the structure with appropriate fasteners, and
use gutter spikes to nail down the wire at the outer end of the trench every
Backfill the trench with three-quarter crushed stone. This barrier will
discourage skunks and most other digging animals.
1. A captured skunk will dig through the mesh of a wire cage trap,
bringing dirt and sod into the trap, and ruining the lawn below. The
trap then weighs more with all this dirt inside. Prevent lawn damage,
and a heavy trap, by placing the trap on a piece of plywood.
2. Skunks make many divots in the lawn, looking for Japanese beetle
grubs. Get rid of the grubs and the skunks will stop digging by
applying milky spore and nematodes at the right time. Ask your state
agriculture department for how to do this effectively.
We specialize in nuisance wildlife control - this is the field of removing unwanted wildlife from homes and property, and solving conflicts between people and wild animals. From home inspections to preventative repairs, wildlife trapping, attic cleanups and more, we solve
critter problems with professional expertise. Call me, David, or click on the below link to find any one of hundreds of wildlife trappers in every city and town in the US.
Do it yourself:
Visit my How To Get Rid of Skunks
page for tips and advice.
Get professional help:
Visit my Nationwide Pro Directory
of wildlife removal experts.
For more wildlife stories, click my Wildlife Blog
or click my below banner to hire a local trapper.