What to Do About Skunks in Your Backyard

So, you've seen a skunk or skunks in the backyard and you're pretty darn sure the animal(s) are living around your property. You haven't quite yet worked out where the nest is, but you know you definitely have more than one skunk, and you're not sure how to go about getting rid of it, preventing it from coming back again, and cleaning up the waste it has probably left behind. Right? If that's not your plan, it should be. 

How many skunks? 

Knowing how many skunks you have hanging around is VITAL. During spring and summer, skunk females will have young skunks, also known as kits, to take care of. They are not capable of living without their mother for a few months at least, and if you plan to remove them during the hottest times of the year, you must be prepared to look for kits and then remove them, too. 

How to find a skunk in your backyard

The first thing you should do in your backyard is have a good walk around. Walk around the edge of your backyard and check the fence. Do you have a fence? If you don't, consider installing one. If skunks are your problem, a fence will go some way to keeping the animal out, because skunks aren't great at climbing or jumping. (They *can* climb to some extent, so don't assume that they won't get into a building or area you don't want them to.) You must add some sort of underground barrier, however, as the skunk can dig and burrow right under in very little time. 

Can you see signs of skunk or animal activity? This might come in the form of fur, urine, feces, a bad smell, food remnants or crumbs, or even a nest or den site. Damage is usually the first thing you'll notice with a wild animal interloper, and the skunk is renowned for its digging activity. You'll probably have holes somewhere, especially in the lawn or heading under buildings. This will be where the skunk is looking for insects underground, and looking for a safe space to call home respectively. 

Skunks are nocturnal, which means you'll have a better chance of physically seeing them if you head outside after dark. They'll know you're there, of course, so there's a chance you won't ever see them at all. You might just hear them if everything is quiet enough around you. They're quite big animals, so when they're scuffling around in tight or small spaces, it's inevitable that they will make a bit of noise. They're also quite clumsy animals, so bashing and thudding sounds are fairly common. The larger the noises, the larger the animal. 

How to get rid of the skunk in your backyard

You have many options when it comes to getting rid of the skunk that has taken residence in your backyard, but you should know that many of the approaches offered forward by the internet are totally bogus. 

Using ammonia-soaked rags, for example, might just persuade a skunk to take another course, but that won't get rid of them from the property or space altogether. They'll just move to a particular area that doesn't smell like the potent gas. Sadly, this kind of behavior usually results in the skunk (or other animal) getting trapped somewhere, and then dying as a result of direct inhalation of ammonia gases. You are also running the risk of other animal suffering the same fate, and even humans, should the gas get into the living quarters or spread around. 

The best approach for skunk removal will depend on the time of year you notice them hanging around. Those that are hanging around under your shed or in your backyard in the spring, for example, are commonly looking for a den site to set up a home. Females will have kits (baby skunks) to take care of, and they won't leave their mother's side for at least a couple of months. During this maternity period, moving a mother without her kits will result in the inevitable death of all kits. Even if you capture and then release the entire family together, the end result is usually death for one or all parties involved. Mothers can run off and abandon their youngsters in moments of blind panic and stress, and that's exactly what they're faced with when they are ripped from their habitat and placed in a brand new one — one that they don't know at all. Perhaps the mother knows that she can't keep her kits safe and alive in this new habitat and simply gives up the game? 

Mothers do move on with their kits, and some female skunks will move every few days, from den site to den site, ensuring the safety of her young. If this is the case (and you are lucky enough), a few days of watching may just result in a non-forceful eviction, leaving you free to seal up the holes they used to gain entrance in the first place. 

Sadly, this isn't an approach you can take during the winter. Skunks hanging around in the backyard during winter are looking for somewhere to fake-hibernate for the winter. They don't hibernate like bears, but they do sleep for long periods of the season away. It helps them to conserve as much energy as they can, waking up feeling refreshed and ready for action when the weather heats up again in spring.

Skunks in the backyard during winter may need to be trapped, rather than waited around for, but exclusion devices can help during times of activity. Exclusion relies on the animal leaving the space of its own accord, which it will obviously only do when it is awake. Again, waiting around for this to happen might not be your best shot at success. 

Alternatively, a wildlife removal operative or rehabilitator can help, regardless of season. Different states will have different restrictions and laws as far as animal and skunk removal is concerned, and some states actually don't permit the trapping of skunks without a permit, without the right kind of trap or method, without the right kind of "end" result, and also during the wrong time of the year. Being a fur-bearing animal, the skunk will come under the same restrictions as other fur-bearing animals in some places, but it is you're responsibility to make sure that you're keeping within the laws for where you live. 

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