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How to Get Rid of Skunks and Keep Them Away for Good

Portrait of skunk in grass
Jemini Joseph / Getty Images

We often smell a skunk before we see it. The odor that comes from a skunk is both unpleasant and unmistakable. And if you’re trying to sell your house or moving into a new one, you’ll really need to know how to keep skunks away.

Luckily, if you have an unwelcome visitor camping out in your yard, there are several effective, eco-friendly, and humane skunk deterrents on the market. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to get rid of skunks.

What do skunks look like?

Skunks are easily recognizable: They have black bodies with white stripes running down their backs and bushy tails. These nocturnal mammals are the approximate size of a house cat, with an adult skunk averaging 13 to 34 inches long, including its tail.

Like all wildlife, skunks are susceptible to rabies. The skunk is one of four wild animals (besides raccoons, bats, and foxes) considered to be primary carriers of the rabies virus. Skunks have also been known to carry the bacterial disease leptospirosis.

How do you get skunks? 

The first step in knowing how to keep skunks away is understanding how you get skunks in your yard. For starters, skunks will forage for food in your garbage cans and trash bags so moving them into the garage or locking them up will help keep skunks at bay. Additionally, skunks love to forage for food (especially grubs) and are attracted by freshly planted yards or freshly laid sod as this makes it easier for them to dig.

Skunks also like to use underground dens for resting, hiding, giving birth, and rearing their young. And while skunks can and will dig their own burrows, they will generally move into abandoned burrows dug by squirrels, foxes, or coyotes. And it’s worth noting that skunks like to make their dens under porches and other dark, low spaces – so blocking off these areas will help keep skunks away.

Having a skunk problem can cause some pretty major inconveniences. Your pets run the risk of getting sprayed and bringing the smell into your home. Your lawn can also become a mess full of unsightly holes and burrows which can destroy your sod and your picture-perfect home.

How do you check for skunks?

Skunks have claws that are perfect for digging. If you find 3- to 4-inch deep holes throughout your garden and lawn, there is a good possibility you have skunks on the hunt for grubs. These nocturnal animals are most active at night and will dig in soft soil.

However, you are more likely to smell a skunk than you are to see one. The unmistakable scent is another identifier when checking for skunks. If you find tracks, yard erosion, and that pungent odor, you can safely assume that skunks are the culprit.

You can also check your yard for skunk feces. Their feces tend to be two inches long, half an inch wide, and contain the remains of the insects that skunks love to eat.

How to get rid of skunks, step by step

You’ve done your research in learning how to keep skunks away and have done your best to keep your property a skunk-free zone. Unfortunately, the skunk has other plans. Once you realize you have a skunk camped out in your yard, you’ll need to know how to get rid of skunks.

Step 1: Use an electronic repellent system 

Ultrasonic pulses or sprays of water that emit from electronic repellent systems can repel all kinds of animals from your yard, including skunks. Repellent systems can cost between $25 and $50 and can be found in most hardware stores and online.

Step 2: Use bright lights 

Skunks are nocturnal animals and their eyes are very sensitive to light. Using a motion-activated light or bright LED lights on a timer will scare skunks away at night.

Step 3: Modify the skunk’s habitat 

Keeping skunks from living under buildings requires structural alterations and/or fencing to block access. Use concrete, sheet metal, chicken wire, or wood to close the openings.

Step 4: Remove the food source 

Skunks feast on grubs that can be found in gardens and sod. Grub control treatment will help eliminate their food source. Always dispose of garbage properly and keep bird and pet food contained.

Step 5: Call in the professionals

Sometimes getting rid of skunks takes more than the options listed above. If you’re unsuccessful in keeping skunks away, contact a pest company. If the skunk is behaving irregularly or erratically, contact your local wildlife authority.

Products you can use to fix a skunk infestation

  • Ultrasonic Animal Repeller – This product discharges a combination of ultrasonic sounds and LED lights to repel the unwanted skunks in your yard. It is eco-friendly, non-toxic, and 100% safe for animals and humans.
  • All-Natural Rodent Repellent Spray – This natural repellent made with peppermint oil will leave skunks wondering what happened to their coveted trash area or home under your deck or crawl space. Peppermint oil is a natural deterrent that changes animal behavior around your property.
  • Yard Enforcer Motion-Activated Sprinkler – This sprinkler humanely repels skunks and keeps them out of plants, yards, and gardens using a harmless spray of water.
  • Solar Ultrasonic Animal Repellent – This solar-powered skunk deterrent offers a humane way of getting rid of pests. The ultrasonic sounds create an unpleasant living environment for the skunks. The device is quiet, as its frequency is so high it’s undetectable to a human ear.

When to call a professional to get rid of skunks

If you’ve tried all of the steps listed above and the skunk has not left your yard then it may be time to call a professional.

If the skunk is behaving abnormally, do not attempt to get rid of the skunk yourself. The skunk is considered to be one of the primary carriers of the rabies virus. If you suspect the skunk may have rabies, seek guidance from your local animal control or state wildlife agency. Symptoms of rabies include aggressiveness, being active during the day, and seizures.

Another reason to call a professional is if you suspect the skunk has had babies. Skunk kits tend to stay in their burrow until they are more mature so it can be hard to get rid of your skunk problem entirely if you don’t call a professional.

How to keep skunks out of your home

Keep your home skunk-free by taking a few simple precautions. Reduce food sources (such as open garbage cans) by ensuring your trash cans have tight-fitting lids or are locked shut. Select bird feeders with seed catchers. Remove any food placed outdoors for pets before the evening. And never throw table scraps into your compost bin. All of these items are seen as a tasty snack for a skunk family.

The bottom line on skunks

If you’re still worried about how to keep skunks away, you can easily avoid an unpleasant skunk encounter by keeping your property free from factors like grubs and other food sources that attract skunks. But if a skunk decides to move in, you can get rid of this unwelcome guest by using a safe and humane skunk repellent. However, if you feel that the skunk is acting strangely, it may have rabies, so contact your local wildlife authority for assistance.

Frequently asked questions

How do you get skunks in a yard?

Skunks are attracted to garbage, bird or pet food, water sources, and shelter under houses or sheds. Keep an eye out for potential spots a skunk would like to make its home.

How do you spot skunk burrows? 

Skunks burrow in a wide range of locations including under decks, porches, fallen trees, drainpipes, and rock piles. Be aware of tracks, a musky odor, or holes in your garden and yard. These are tell-tale signs of a skunk hanging around.

How do you humanely relocate skunks? 

There are numerous effective eco-friendly and humane skunk deterrents on the market, such as ultrasonic noise transmitters or all-natural peppermint sprays. Never purchase skunk deterrents made from predator urine as these products are created in inhumane conditions.

How do you keep skunks from returning? 

Prevention is key to keeping skunks away. Close off any areas under your home, garage, or shed where a skunk can burrow. Always keep trash cans securely shut. Lawn maintenance, including grub prevention, will decrease skunks foraging for food.

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