Living with Skunks

 

William F. Wood, Department of Chemistry
Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA 95521
E-mail wfw2@humboldt.edu

 

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How to Deodorize Skunk Spray

 

Disclaimer - Some of the following are things that have worked for me in my studies on skunks. They are not guaranteed to work in all cases and may need to be modified to fit your situation. Please use this information with discretion.

 

How to discourage skunks from living under you house or deck. I have received many enquiries on how to get rid of skunks that are living under a deck or house. The easiest way is to put a light under the house or deck after the skunks have left for the night. When the skunks return before dawn they will be repelled by the light and will find another area to sleep.

How to humanely catch skunks and move them to new areas. Catching a skunk in a live trap (Havahart®) is the easy part. Peanut butter is a good bait since cats are not attracted to it. After the skunk is in the trap, holding a sheet stretched between your upraised hands will allow you approach the trapped skunk without alarming it. Gently cover the trap with the sheet and then carefully wrap it around the trap. The skunk can now be transported in the back of a truck to a distant area for release. Now is the tricky part, getting the skunk out of the trap and not being sprayed. I have heard of skunks refusing to leave the trap when it is opened. Plan ahead how to easily open the trap with the skunk inside and be prepared to wait until he decides to leave the trap. Also, leave your dog at home for this ride.

How to coexist with skunks. You can live near skunks it you don't alarm them. Several year ago, skunks started raiding my hen house for eggs. The hens were locked in at night so to gain access the skunks burrowed under the walls. I put a floor under the house to discourage them. When they tried to get in, they made a burrow large enough to live in. For the next year or so, they would appear most nights just after dark and scavenge any of the table scraps the chickens had not eaten. In the year, they did not spray once. After dark, when I went over near the pen, I made noise so they knew I was approaching. They readily left and never threatened me with even a lifted tail. After I got rid of the hens, they disappeared.

The American naturalist, Ernest Thompson Seton, wrote a chapter "The Well-meaning Skunk" in his book Wild Animals at Home (Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1913, 226p.) During a summer at Yellowstone Park, two skunks took up residence under the floor of his cabin. These skunks became quite tame and at times came into the cabin in the evenings. They never had occasion to spray their defensive secretion and were viewed as beneficial. Seton wrote. "They cleaned up our garbage, so helped rid us of flies and mice." For many years after this he allowed skunks to live in close proximity and even photographed his young daughter playing with these skunks, "full-grown specimens in full possession of all their faculties."

Once during a conversation with a local Native American he told me that at times spotted skunks would enter rural homes through small gaps in the house's construction. Since they ate mice and other small vermin they were tolerated. He did say that some times they would enter the back of a clothing dresser and go to sleep among the socks. Then they were considered a pest. A friend of mine living in Coos Bay, Oregon has a similar story. He had a spotted skunk take up residence in his garage. Several times on days when he was rearranging things he disturbed it. It never sprayed him, but just walked over to an undisturbed part of the garage and presumably went back to sleep. He said it lived there for several years and never sprayed once.

© William F. Wood, 1998. Updated on 11 February 1998.