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Wildlife Proofing -
Unmistakeable in their
coloring, these animals also play a role in natural pest control in our
cities, towns and rural areas.
Although they annoy farmers by
raids on beehives and henhouses, it has been estimated that almost 70
percent of a skunkís diet is beneficial to people and only five percent
is harmful to human property.
Although they are solitary and
prefer to live in peace and avoid people they have suffered a loss of
habitat and have moved into cities and towns.
They like to burrow and have
claws well adapted to digging.
A natural dinner for a skunk
would be insects, mice, shrews, ground squirrels, young rabbits, birdsí
eggs, and various plants.
During the autumn and winter
they eat about equal amounts of plant and animal foods, but eat mainly
insects in the summer. Skunks are especially fond of grasshoppers,
crickets, and insect larvae such as white grubs, army worms, and
They will even eat wasps and
bees, which they kill with their front feet.
They are omnivorous and will
eat both plant and animal matter.
Breeding time for skunks is Feb
to March and it takes approximately 54 days for a skunk to be born.
The mother will gather leaves
on her foraging expeditions for her den by placing them under her body
and then shuffling along with the leaves held between her legs.
Average litter size is four to
By mid summer or around 6-8
weeks of age, they have been weaned and are adept at being on their
Very similar to raccoons, they
will remain active all year long but will enter a state of torpor when
temperatures dip below freezing.
They also den in communal dens
to conserve body heat during the colder winter months, when being alone
is less important than being warm.
Up to 90% of skunks
die in their first winter.
In the wild skunks
may live to be 2 to 3 years old.
They are not good climbers so
itís not likely youíll find one in a tree or on someoneís roof.
They prefer to live in ground
burrows, spaces under sheds, decks, porches and in woodpiles, rock piles
or even in garbage piles.
Removing a skunk without
remedying the problem that attracted the skunk is not going to solve the
problem. Another skunk will move in.
A good rainfall will bring them
to garden areas and lawns where they have easy access to worms, grubs
and other larvae.
Uncovered compost piles will
also act as a strong attractant for a skunk.
They are active primarily at
dusk and dawn and generally arenít seen in daylight hours.
Keeping Safe Around Skunks
The scent of the skunk is
produced by a thick, yellow, oily fluid, or musk, secreted by two glands
located on either side of the anus at the base of the tail.
The glands are about the size
of a grape and contain about a tablespoon of musk, enough for five or
six discharges. The glands are connected by ducts to two small nipples
that are hidden when the tail is down and exposed when the tail is
A skunk can spray 8 - 10 feet
with great accuracy and the odour produced can be carried for up to 1 km
on the wind.
Skunks are usually quite docile
animals and will only spray when they feel threatened.
The musk is produced rather
slowly, at a rate of about one-third of an ounce a week, and is
discharged only as a last desperate measure after repeated warning
Skunks have a good
sense of hearing, but their vision is very poor.
They are mostly
silent, but do make a variety of sounds such as churring, hisses, and
If a skunk feels threatened,
it will give you advance warning first by stamping its front feet.
If you donít retreat at that
first warning, it will raise itís tail, turn its rear end towards the
threat and turn its head to look, and then spray.
If you encounter one while you
are out walking, start speaking to it so it can judge how far away and
where you are. Stop for a moment and keep speaking, give the skunk a
chance to move on. This is one wild animal you donít want to
scare away so itís best that you donít make any loud noises or sudden
movements and it will go out of its way to avoid you.
If you encounter a skunk that
is acting abnormally, e.g. attacking inanimate objects, or other
animals, acting aggressively towards you, call your local animal control
or humane society for assistance.
Skunks, like raccoons are
highly susceptible to canine distemper virus and it manifests in
essentially the same way. The skunk will be disoriented, confused, may
be out in the daylight and may appear unsteady and staggering or lame in
the back end.
Donít approach a sick skunk.
In end stages the virus
attacks their brain and they can uncontrollably spray in such
Even baby skunks can spray if
they feel threatened or become frightened by a sudden loud noise or
event (e.g. a dog charging them).
Rabies In Skunks
In Ontario, skunks remain a
key vector species in the potential spread of rabies in Ontario.
In Ontario, the MNR has
drop baits, hand dropped baits, and through Trap, Vaccinate, Release
(TVR) programs along the border areas, helps to maintain a healthy
population of vaccinated wildlife. In short these efforts have
prevented wildlife rabies from grabbing an uncontrolled foothold in the
There are however, small
pockets of terrestrial rabies in skunks in certain areas of the province
that periodically crop up. Part of the difficulty is that specific
vaccination baits that target only skunks, have not yet reached the
final stages of development.
Overall the ministryís efforts
can be disrupted if individuals engage in trapping and releasing
wildlife outside the area they originated in.
If you are bitten by any
animal, wash the wound with copious amounts of soap and water, contact a
doctor, and report the bite to your local Public Health Department (see
listings in this directory). If possible, have someone keep the animal
in sight so that it can be captured or confined.
For more up to date and
accurate information about rabies visit the Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources Rabies Research and Development Unit website:
(Note: As the MNR url's change
frequently, search Google for 'MNR, Rabies, Ontario' for the current url.)
Because of their inability to
climb, survey your property at ground level for loose or easily
Skunks donít have the
adaptable and flexible paws that raccoons have so they arenít good at
removing well fitting lids on trash containers. Plastic garbage bags
are a breeze for them to tear apart however.
Use repellents like ammonia,
or naphtha flakes around the ground in garbage storage areas.
Place the containers so that
they canít easily be tipped over.
Donít compost in open bins.
Refrain from feeding pets
outdoors and from feeding wildlife. Any uneaten food is a magnet for a
Check around wood piles, rock
piles and other areas where debris is piled up and clean those up.
Under porches, decks, sheds,
above ground pools, spas and hot tubs are other areas they will access
and potentially use for a home.
Their poor climbing ability
and vision also leaves them prone to falling into window wells and other
excavations of that type.
Should a skunk fall into a
window well, slowly approach, while talking to it so it can sense where
you are, and gently place a wooden plank down into one end of the well.
Leave the area and keep your pets away.
Donít expect the skunk to be
able to do a tight rope walk up a broom handle, so look for a wide
enough board to use.
When it becomes dark, it will
find its own way out using the board you lowered in for it.
Once it is gone, cover the
window well to prevent it from happening again.
Sprinkle the area with flour
and check for tracks to identify if it is a skunk. If you can find the
den entrance, cover it up by stuffing newspaper or rags into it. If it
has been pushed away, then you know someone is living in there.
Sprinkle the area around the
entrance with used kitty litter.
This can be used in conjunction
with the three key things that can be done to discourage them from remaining
in the den.
Three key things must
be put in place simultaneously to evict them humanely. This effort must be
kept up for 3-4 days to achieve success.
Use a work light or flashlight
to illuminate the area or den.
If you use electrical lighting
please ensure that your placement of the bulb will not start a
Replace the flashlight
batteries if they dim down.
Place rags in empty margarine
containers, dampen them with ammonia and place the covers back on them
and punch holes in them for the odour to escape.
Place those at the entrance to
the den and around the den and in the den if you can toss them in
Before tossing ammonia
containers in, make sure that the babies, if there are any, can move
away from the container. These are strong odours and if a young baby
cannot escape from it, they may die, so be judicious in where you place
Also keep in mind that very
strong odours may also affect you, in your living space, so use your
judgement in how much to apply.
Use just enough to annoy the
animals, not you.
It is possible to install a one
way door to allow the skunk to go out. One way doors mean it canít
re-enter, however, if her babies are not mobile and able to follow her,
they will die in that space without her. Never use one way doors if the
babies are not mobile.
Once you are sure they have
left, check again using flour to trace footprints and by continuing to
block the entrance with newspaper and rags. If you see no signs after a
span of three to five days, itís a safe bet they have left. Thatís the
time to ensure you do a repair that prevents access by another wild
See the general section for
advice on how to put up a dig proof barrier to that access point.
Skunk Spray Antidote
Skunk spray contains thiol, a
specific compound that tomato juice or vinegar are chemically incapable of
A simple remedy is this one:
quart of 6% hydrogen peroxide, one
tablespoon of baking soda, and one teaspoon of any dishwashing liquid soap.
In a non metallic container, stir
these three ingredients together gently. They will immediately foam up.
Apply to any
areas that have been sprayed.
If applying to the face and eye
area of your pet, use a facecloth or sponge that you dab on around the area,
being careful not to get this in the pets eyes or in their mouth.
For the remaining areas, use a
small cup and pour it on the area that was sprayed.
Leave this on for five minutes
then rinse off with warm water.
Be warned that dogs with black fur
may become slightly lighter in colour due to the peroxide lightening their
fur, but - they wonít smell bad.
This formula will work on skin,
clothing, and whatever else gets sprayed with one small exception - it is
difficult to remove the thiol from leather objects so if your gloves have
been sprayed, or your leather shoes, you may have difficulty removing the
thiol from those materials permanently.
It may slightly discolour certain
types of fabric also, so test a small spot first.
CAUTION WHEN USING:
This mixture cannot be made up
in advance and any unused mixture cannot be stored. The ingredients can be kept separately
in a cupboard until you have need for them.
Skunk spray on skin or in the eyes
burns and is irritating, but soon passes.
If you get it in your eyes, flush
first with large quantities of warm water and then proceed to remove the
spray from the rest of your body and clothing as above.
Removal By Trapping
When live trapping appears to be the
only way to remove a problematic skunk, please keep the following in mind:
Contact a reputable and reliable,
experienced professional nuisance wildlife removal company when the animal
must be removed from between walls or from crawl spaces or when the home
owner is unable to remedy the problems.
Nuisance wildlife removal companies
are not licensed and may only have a license from the MNR as trappers.
Thatís required for them to remove the animal from your property.
Ethics or methods they may employ
to deal with that problem are not under any regulations at all and this is
where they differ. Very few of these companies offer humane solutions that
secure the access point and treat the animal humanely.
Contact your local authorized
wildlife custodian or wildlife centre and ask them for a recommendation.
Contact the local Ministry of
Natural Resources for further assistance.
In accordance with the Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Act, if you live-capture a nuisance animal, and do not
humanely kill it, you must, within 24 hours, either release it in close
proximity to where you caught it (within 1 km of point of capture for all
adult wildlife) as directed by the Ministry of Natural resources, or, if it
is sick, injured or immature, turn it over to an authorized wildlife
Whatever it is that is attracting
skunks to your property, is what needs to be eliminated. Without that being
remedied, there will never be a long term solution for wildlife conflicts.
Trapping done by inexperienced
homeowners, the Ďguy next doorí with a trap and so on, wonít solve the
problem. It seems like an instant solution but it isnít.
Those who fail to check if the
skunk being removed is a lactating female, and if she may have babies in the
area will deliberately leave those babies behind to starve to death and
die. And who wants to get that close up and check on the underside of a
skunk?? Imagine the smell of a litter of decaying bodies a month later!
Trapping by a reputable, humane
company that will also repair the entrance point to prevent re-entry is the
only choice if all else fails.
It is illegal to use weapons within
city limits to shoot animals, and it is illegal to use body gripping traps.
Using poison can result in criminal charges and fines up to $5,000. None of
those methods are viable options for a nuisance wild animal.
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