Skunks

 

 

 

 

 

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Wildlife Proofing - Skunks

 

Skunk Facts

  • 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 cutworms.

  • 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 seven babies. 

  • By mid summer or around 6-8 weeks of age, they have been weaned and are adept at being on their own. 

  • 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 raised..

  • 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 signals.

  • 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 screams. 

  • 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 situations. 

  • 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 maintained air 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 province. 

  • 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.) 

Skunk Proofing

  • Because of their inability to climb, survey your property at ground level for loose or easily accessible garbage. 

  • 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 wild animal. 

  • 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. 

Humane Eviction

  • 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.

 

Sound

  • A radio set to a talk radio station, loud.

Light

  • 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 fire. 

  • Replace the flashlight batteries if they dim down.

Odour

  • 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 there. 

  • 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 them. 

  • 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 animal.

  • See the general section for advice on how to put up a dig proof barrier to that access point.

Skunk Feces

  • Treat the same as for raccoons. 

Skunk Spray Antidote

Skunk spray contains thiol, a specific compound that tomato juice or vinegar are chemically incapable of breaking down. 

 

A simple remedy is this one:

  • 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. 

REMEMBER!

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 custodian.

  • 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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Last modified: 11/23/14 02:10 AM