Skunks – How to live in harmony

by | Interesting Wildlife Fact Sheets |

As their natural habitat is being destroyed, wildlife like skunks have been making their way into our backyards and neighbourhoods – and not all interactions with them are pleasant. So how can we co-exist peacefully with our skunk friends?

First, let’s get to know our neighbourhood friends a bit more.

Skunks are shy creatures, but they may not be as fearful of humans as you would think. They are nocturnal, meaning they mainly come out at night, although it is not uncommon to see a skunk during the day. Skunks are well known for their definitive black and white markings and foul odour. However, generally, skunks will only spray you if they feel threatened or surprised.

Habitat

The natural habitat of a skunk includes forest borders, brushy areas, and grassy fields. Skunks are burrowing animals. In urban areas, you can find them under buildings, porches and culverts

Diet

Skunks, like raccoons, are omnivores. Their diet consists mainly of insects, but also includes mice and other small mammals. Skunks may also eat eggs, fruits, nuts, vegetation, carrion, and garbage. This varied diet is one of the reasons they have easily adapted to living in residential areas.

Reproduction

Skunks breed in late winter to early spring and usually give birth in May or June. They have between three-to-10 young per litter. These young remain in the den for six-to-eight weeks before venturing out with their mother.

Deterrent measures

Skunks do not like bright lights or noise. Thus, these can be a great way to deter skunks from building a den in your yard. In addition, you can install an L-shaped galvanized screen around the perimeter of the porch or shed. Making sure to leave the entrance/exit hole open. To do this dig a one-inch deep by one-inch-wide trench around the perimeter. Then place the screen in the trench to form a backwards ‘L’. The base of the ‘L’ should be at least eight inches wide. Fit the screen tightly against the building then fill the trench in with dirt.

If you do end up with some unwelcome guests visit our blog for more information on deterrents and removal.

Dealing with the spray

Skunks employ warning signs before they spray, such as stamping their front feet, fluffing their fur, and raising their tail. If you do get sprayed there are some remedies you can try to reduce the smell. However, only time can permanently eliminate the odour.

The most common (and effective) household formulation for de-skunking animals was created by chemist Paul Krebaum in 1993. In a bucket, mix together the following ingredients:

  • 4 cups of hydrogen peroxide (3% strength)
  • 1/4 cup of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid hand soap

Bathe your pet with this solution and warm water. The hydrogen peroxide strips the skunk’s oil from your pet’s coat, and the baking sode neutralizes the smell.

If you’re concerned the hydrogen peroxide will bleach your pet’s coat or leave their skin itchy, rinse the solution off right after using it on them.

Some words of caution:

  • Peroxide is a strong chemical agent, so do not lather your dog up and do not let it sit on your dog’s coat before washing it off
  • Keep the formula away from your pet’s eyes, mouth, ears and nose
  • Do not let your pet swallow any of it (it will almost immediately cause vomiting)
  • Do not try to bottle the formula “for later” as peroxide is a reactive agent and can cause a minor explosion

Lastly, if you pour the leftover mix onto your lawn or plants, your grass will bleach out in the sun and leave a giant pale spot admist the lush greenery of the rest of your lawn – so avoid doing that unless that’s what you’re going for!

For more information on living with skunks visit Living with Wildlife-Skunks.

Having skunks in your yard can have some unpleasant side effects. However, with the right precautions, you can live in harmony with these interesting creatures.

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