All About Skunks
Skunks eat many pest insects that cause damage to your lawn and garden but problems typically arise when the skunks spray or dig holes in your garden or landscape or burrow in and around your home for shelter.
Skunks do dig holes in lawns, golf courses and gardens in their search for grubs in the soil.
- Members of the weasel family, there are four species of skunks in North America: striped, hooded, spotted and hog-nosed
- The most common are striped skunks, measuring 20 to 30 inches long (including the tail) and weigh approximately 6 to 10 pounds with two wide stripes on the back that meet on the head. Nocturnal by nature, skunks have a litter of 1-7 young in late April through early June.
- Skunks are slow-moving animals but have strong forefeet and long nails which make them excellent diggers.
- Skunks will ususally only attack when cornered or defending their young. Spraying is not the first method of defense. Skunks will growl, spit, fluff their fur, shake their tail, and stamp the ground. If the intruder does not leave, they will lift their tail and spray their famous skunk odor.
- The spray is a sulfur compound that has a range of up to 15 feet. The glands that hold the spray hold enough for 5-6 sprays. Skunk control can be tricky since you want to avoid getting sprayed.
Skunks are found throughout the US, Canada and Mexico. Skunks like warm dry, dark defensible locations. They have adapted to building dens in decks, trash dumps and woodpiles. When foraging for food, skunks will often travel 5-10 miles.
Skunks are omnivorous. Their diet typically consists of beetles, larvae and earthworms. Skunks are also know to eat field mice, small rodents, lizards, garbage, eggs, and fallen fruit.
Problems arise with skunks when they determine that your yard is the best place for their den and that your garbage cans hold a delicious and accessible smorgasbord!
Identify Skunk Damage
Skunks provide more of a benefit than people think. They eat many pest insects that cause damage to your lawn and garden. Problems arise when they make homes in and around your garden and spray causing the very irritating skunk odor.
- Skunk odor is very unique and easy to identify. Yet, skunk odor is not always an indicator of skunk presence. Sometimes other animals within the area may have been sprayed and the skunk odor is lingering.
- Skunks become a nuisance when their burrowing and feeding habits cause problems for humans. They may burrow under porches or buildings by entering foundation openings. Skunks dig holes in lawns, golf courses and gardens searching for grubs found in the soil. Skunk holes appear as small cone-shaped holes or patches of up-turned earth 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
- Skunk droppings usually have undigested insect parts and are 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter and 1 to 2 inches long.
Skunk Control Options
Havahart® recommends the following skunk control options:
- The Havahart® Small Easy Set® Trap Model 1084, features innovative updates on the set-up of a live trap. The enhancements on the old way traps were made and designed is nothing short of revolutionary! The Easy Set® traps feature spring loaded doors that close by themselves with animal weight. The safe release mechanism, located on top of the trap, limits the user's interaction with the animal to be released.
- These traps are perfect for trapping skunks. The safe release mechanism comes especially handy when catching or setting a skunk free. Pull the lever and give the removed skunk its space!
How to trap a skunk
Very carefully! Skunks spray when they are frightened. To move a skunk in a trap, quietly drop a sheet over the trap, pick it up gently without shaking or jerking. In order to spray, skunks have to raise their tails, haunch up and aim. If the trap is low, and the skunk is unable to to raise their tail or turn their back to you, they most likely won't spray.
What if my pet gets sprayed?
If your dog or cat happen to get sprayed try mixing a quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide with 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap, bathe the pet and rinse well. This will help mask the odor but when the dog gets damp, the smell will most likely return.
Critter Ridder® comes in liquid Ready-to-use spray, concentrate or granular shaker applications. One application lasts up to 30 days!
Skunks can be discouraged from entering an area by using a skunk repellent; however, skunk repellents work temporarily and are not a permanent solution - such as trapping and relocating.
The most effective means of avoiding skunk problems is to remove the denning sites under and around structures such as garages and homes.
How to remove a resident skunk
Havahart® suggests the following steps for removing skunks already established under buildings.
- Seal all possible entrances along the foundation, but leave the main skunk burrow entrance open.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of flour 2 feet in circumference on the ground in front of the opening.
- After dark, examine the flour for tracks that indicate the skunk has left to feed. If tracks are not present, reexamine in about an hour.
- After the den is empty, cover the remaining entrance immediately. Cover all openings with wire mesh, sheet metal or concrete. Bury fencing 1 1/2 to 2 feet in areas where skunks could gain access by digging.
- Reopen one of the entrances the next day for 1 hour after dark to allow any remaining skunks to exit before permanently sealing the entrance particularly in the months of May and June when baby skunks may still be in the den.
- Use tight-fitting lids to keep skunks out of garbage cans
Properly dispose of garbage or other food sources that will attract skunks. Skunks are often attracted to rodents living in barns, crawl spaces, sheds and garages. Debris such as lumber, fence posts, and junk cars provide a shelter and encourage skunks to make a home.
To reduce skunk damage to lawns resulting from digging for grubs, use an appropriate insecticide to control the insects.
Suggested skunk bait
Do you have a live skunk trap and need to know the best options for skunk bait? Havahart® recommends the following baits to attract skunks:
Use a small plate to place the skunk bait at the end of the live skunk trap.
- Chicken entrails
- Fish, canned (sardines)
- Fresh-insect larvae such as May Beetles
- Crisp bacon
- Cat Food
- Bread crust coated with peanut butter
Article Courtesy of HAVAHART®
© 2011 Woodstream Corporation
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