Living With Skunks
This page provides problem-solving advice and ways to make your yard less attractive to skunks in the first place.
For more information on these mammals, including what they eat and where they live in the forest preserves, visit the main skunks page.
The best way to prevent a skunk from establishing a den in your yard is to keep it away from attractive areas from the start. Use welded wire to block access to crawl spaces and areas under decks, sheds, patios and porches.
If a skunk has already established a den, try the techniques below, preferably two or three at the same time. After a few days, pack crumpled newspaper into the entrance. If the skunk is still there, it will pull the paper out. If the paper stays in place for a few days, repair any openings.
- Place flashlights, flood lamps, blinking holiday lights or a constantly noisy device such as a radio, alarm clock or toy in the den. Leave them on day and night — or at least during the day to disturb the animal’s sleep.
- Place ammonia-soaked rags in the den for one week. Resoak the rags daily, and pack crumpled newspaper in the entrance to hold in the fumes. Never use ammonia between March and August; it can harm infants too young to escape.
One way to get a skunk out of a well is to place a rough board at a 45 degree angle inside the well. If you do not have a rough board, wrap a towel or carpeting around a board to provide traction. (Skunks aren’t good climbers.) Make sure it’s long enough to reach the top. Place fish-scented cat food or cheese at the top of the ramp to entice the skunk, which may not leave until night.
If that doesn’t work, tie a rope to the handle of a 5-gallon bucket. Place food inside the bucket, and lower it into the well. Place the bucket on its side so that the skunk can walk inside. Once the skunk is inside, slowly raise the bucket and place it on the the ground on its side with the opening away from you so that the skunk can walk out. Try to stay out of the skunk’s sight.
How to Make Your Yard Less Attractive
- Never feed skunks.
- Keep pet food and water dishes inside.
- Keep grills and barbecues clean.
- Keep garbage cans inside. If this is not possible, pour 1 cup of ammonia inside each can, sprinkle black pepper on the top bags, or place ammonia-soaked rags on top of the lids and secure them with bungee cords.
- Use closed compost bins.
- Keep the ground below bird feeders and fruit trees clean.
- Install a 3-foot-high chicken-wire fence around your garden. Bury an additional foot underground to discourage digging.
- Spray plants with a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of hot sauce or garlic puree. Reapply after a heavy dew or rain.
- If skunks are digging up your lawn in search of grubs, place cayenne pepper and ammonia-soaked rags in the area, or spray it with a mixture of 8 ounces of Dawn dish soap, a handful of chewing tobacco and water. Call the University of Illinois Extension office at 630-653-4114 for more advice.
What You Should Never Do
- Trapping and removing an animal is not always the solution to the problem. Removing the animal is illegal without the proper permits and only creates an open space for another animal to inhabit. A trapped adult may also leave young behind to die of starvation. Focus on removing the attraction, not the animal.
- Never move young from a den.
- Never use poisons. They’re inhumane and may be illegal. They can also result in secondary poisoning of other wild animals or pets.
- It’s illegal to keep wild animals, even for a short time. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs, and inexperienced individuals who try to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that can’t survive in the wild.
Public Health Concerns
Rabies is rare, but skunks can carry the disease, so never handle one. If you find a skunk that’s wounded, shows no fear of people or has trouble walking, call your local animal-control office.