Basic Information

Skunks are mammals best known for their ability to excrete a strong, foul-smelling odor. General appearance ranges from species to species, from black and white to brown or cream colored. Skunks eat fruit, worms, insects, fish, snakes, and dead animals. A snake bite will not kill a skunk because they are immune to snake venom. Great horned owls will eat skunks and don’t seem to be offended by their odor. Their front claws are used to dig burrows for rooting for food. They are about the same size as a house cat. A skunk will stomp their feet and hiss to try to warn predators and if that does not work then they will spray. The oily liquid that the skunk sprays in defense is actually yellow in color. Most skunks have a limited amount of spray ability, about five to six full powered sprays and then it takes 10 days to replenish their supply.

Fun Facts

Skunks only live to be three years old. The skunk’s top speed when it runs is only 10 miles per hour. They have two to six babies (called kits), and those babies can spray when they are eight days old.

Skunk Resources- Humane Society

Public health concerns

The skunk is one of four wild animals (including the fox, raccoon and bat) considered to be primary carriers of the rabies virus and is, therefore, classified as a rabies vector species. Skunks have also been known to carry leptospirosis.

Is that skunk rabid?

Even though skunks are mostly active at night, they sometimes look for food by day—particularly in the spring, when they have young and may be extra hungry. Don’t be concerned if you see an adult skunk in the daytime unless they are also showing abnormal behaviors:

  • Limb paralysis.
  • Circling.
  • Boldness or unprovoked aggression.
  • Disorientation, staggering.
  • Uncharacteristic tameness.

If you observe any of the above behaviors, don't approach the skunk yourself.  Contact Animal Services by calling 311 and we will assess the situation.

Common Conflicts

It is more likely you will smell a skunk than see one. Persistent, faint musky smells under a building or woodpile may suggest that a skunk has taken up residence.

You may find small, shallow holes in the lawn, similar to those made by squirrels, which are a result of a skunk foraging for grubs. Occasionally, you may even find plants knocked over or damage to the lower leaves or ears of ripening garden crops, including corn. You should look for these additional clues; foxes also have their own musky scent that may cause misidentification.

Warning signs to heed

Skunks use their powerful defense only when they or their young are threatened and cannot escape. Even then, they give ample warning that should be heeded — stamping front feet, a raised tail, hissing, short forward charges and twisting their hind end around in your direction. Spotted skunks will even contort into a characteristic handstand, rump in the air with eyes still fixed on the threat. Move away slowly and quietly. By nature, dogs tend to ignore these warnings, so it is important they be restrained for their own good.

How do you get rid of skunks?

Because of the lingering odor, and fear of being sprayed, it may be hard for some people to tolerate skunks living under a deck or old shed. But skunks need shelter when they are most vulnerable (during the coldest parts of the winter and when raising young).

Skunks are nocturnal and non-aggressive, plus they play a beneficial role—all good reasons to just leave them alone until they have moved on of their own accord (which they readily do) or can safely be encouraged to leave an area where they are not wanted.

What attracts skunks to your yard?

Habitat modification

Skunks are opportunists at heart — they’re mainly attracted to low-hanging fruit like garbage and pet food left out at night, as well as convenient denning sites, such as wood and rock piles, elevated sheds, and openings under concrete slabs and porches and crawl spaces.

Preventive measures, such as removing attractants around houses, will decrease the likelihood of an unpleasant skunk encounter. This includes securing trash, covering window wells, feeding pets indoors, or if fed outdoors, removing food immediately after pets eat.

Skunks may also dig for grubs in the yard when wet soil conditions push grubs close to the surface — their presence may be a sign of an overwatered lawn. Occasionally, however, a skunk may also wander into an open garage or shed, which is a compelling reason to secure all outbuildings.

Preventing denning (exclusion)

Exclusion techniques should be used proactively to prevent denning before an animal moves in. Any suspected skunk den should first be checked to determine if it has residents.

This may be done by loosely filling the hole (or holes) with soil, leaves, straw, crumpled paper or similar material. If a skunk is present, the animal will easily push their way out overnight and reopen the hole.

If the plug remains undisturbed for two or three nights, it is safe to assume that the hole is unoccupied and can be filled. In the winter, skunks may remain inactive for longer periods, so provide them with a bit more time to disturb the plug before blocking the den entrance. Permanently exclude skunks (and other den-seeking creatures) with an L-shaped footer of welded wire or similar barriers.

If a skunk is using the den, either harassment or eviction using a one-way door system is recommended. When evicting skunks, be sure that dependent young are not present. When in doubt, assume they are and use the door only after they start following their mother to forage. Leave the door in place from two or three nights to a week to be sure the skunk has left.


When it is safe to displace skunks, mild harassment can be very effective. This can be as simple as loosely repacking the den hole with leaves or straw or other material to see if the skunk gets the message and moves elsewhere. If they require more persuading, adding light and noise to make an dark and quiet denning space unattractive may help as well. Make sure the skunk is not close by before setting up the disturbances.

About repellants

Repellants may also be effective in skunk deterrence. Mild repellents, such as used kitty litter, can be placed near or inside the den to one side so the skunk has to pass them to get out; commercial or homemade capsaicin or castor oil repellents may also be tried.

Avoid buying skunk deterrents that are based on predator urine — these products are created under inhumane conditions, and are not necessary to repel skunks effectively.

Stronger products, such as the powerful capsaicin-based “hot sauces,” are often unnecessary — in the case that they are used, they must be treated with extreme care due to the consequences for people, and animals who may inadvertently come into contact with them.

Skunk in garage

Skunks who have wandered into a garage can simply be allowed to wander back out by making sure the door is open before dusk. Skunks are nocturnally active, so opening the door at dusk and closing it later in the evening is likely to be a solution to this problem.

It is important to make sure the skunk has not been coming and going for long enough to have established a den and given birth, and that any accessible foods (bags of bird seed, for example) have been moved and secured in tightly sealed containers.