No one wants skunks in their backyard. The obvious danger is getting sprayed, but that’s far from the only problem. Skunks can carry rabies, and since they are (understandably) almost unafraid of human beings, they are a not uncommon way for people to become infected with rabies.
To get rid of these unwanted guests, it is important to know a little about them. First, they are omnivores: around human beings, their preferred delicacy is garbage, but they will happily eat anything. Second, they are crepuscular. They come out mainly at dawn and dusk. Thirdly, skunks are fairly awkward: they can dig, but they can’t climb very well, they don’t have great vision, and they don’t usually move very fast. In these respects, skunks are somewhat more manageable than, let’s say, woodchucks or raccoons. Here’s what you do:
Step I – Stop Feeding the Skunks
End the meal plan. Put your garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids. Don’t feed your pets outside. Make sure your compost bin, if you have one, is well sealed. Find a bird feeder that doesn’t spill. If you notice that skunks are rooting in your lawn, they are probably looking for grubs and larvae. Consult a lawn care specialist for treatments to kill the grubs.
Unfortunately, you can’t control what your neighbors do, and it’s possible that the skunks will have come to consider your house such a fine dining establishment that they will keep coming around even after you’ve locked things up.
Step II – Make the Skunks Unwelcome
There a number of folk remedies for repelling skunks. Remember, these are animals who are not afraid of much, and have few natural enemies. The idea is not to scare them, but to make their lives miserable. Do not use dogs as a scare tactic!
Pepper spray or other commercial chemical repellants are usually effective, but it’s a case of fighting fire with fire. You have to re-apply them all the time, and they also smell very bad.
Exterior lights on a motion detector can be purchased at the hardware store for relatively little money. Skunks don’t like bright lights, and no one likes being startled. So this is a possible line of defense if the skunks are only interested in one place (such as your garbage).
If they have a more general interest, you might try the “Scarecrow Sprinkler“, a motion-actived water sprinkler that sprays water over a 1000-square foot area. But this is expensive and complicated to install effectively.
Most likely, if the skunks are willing to tolerate your efforts to harass them, it is because they are living with you: under your house, in your garage, or very nearby.
Step III – Giving Skunks the Boot
Proceed with caution. Skunks love to set up shop under porches, and they can and will create burrows near human habitation. You can wait for them to go out and block off their entrances, but this may not deter them. The best option is to get a large live trap (which can be often be rented for this purpose) bait it, and wait. It won’t take long…skunks are fairly gullible. Before you do this, however, you need to figure out a way to re-open the trap from a safe distance–probably with a rope or a long pole.
A skunk will almost never spray in a confined space, so the idea is to cover the trap–skunk and all–throw it in the back of a truck, drive your new friend at least ten or twenty miles, and then…very carefully…let them out. Then run.