You may have noticed signs of an unwanted critter on your property. Then, one night you spot it: a skunk. You had never seen one in person before, so you assumed these animals didn’t live near you. But in reality, you realize that you don’t know much about these creatures. Where do skunks live? If you ignore them, will they just go away?
Unfortunately, skunks probably won’t just disappear on their own. As a matter of fact, if they’re wandering around your property, skunks are more likely to be looking for either food or shelter, and if they find either or both of these things, they’ll be sticking around for a while. When that happens, your lawn and garden can get torn up, your pets can get sprayed by their characteristic foul odor and worse still, your family can be exposed to rabies and other diseases. So where are skunks most likely to live on your property?
If you’re living in a more rural area, skunks could nest anywhere that is tucked away, including under:
- Wood piles
- Hollow or dead logs
- Former dens abandoned by foxes, coyotes or squirrels
- Abandoned or unfinished buildings
In less rural or more populated areas, these animals create dens:
- Under decks
- In crawl spaces or garages
- Underneath front and rear porches
- Beneath buildings and in basements
- In cellar window wells
Skunks also like to create burrows by digging up lawns, golf courses or gardens. You should especially be on the lookout for skunks trying to make your property their home when it’s starting to cool down. While skunks are nocturnal, you may see an animal during the day in the spring, when females are pregnant, or when
Where you can find skunks as fall rolls into winter? We’ll answer this and some other common questions about skunks so that you are better equipped to handle what for many homeowners is an unwelcome guest.
Where Do Skunks Live In The Winter?
During the spring and fall, skunks may destroy your yard, looking for grubs to feed on. As omnivores, skunks will eat a variety of things in suburban areas, including insects, worms, eggs, eggs from backyard chickens, berries, pet food, garbage and even rodents. During the colder months, a skunk will spend more time in its den in a protected space, which can be around porches, decks or under homes. However, they are likely to choose a new home for winter rather than the den they had during the summer.
While skunks don’t necessarily “hibernate”, they do stay relatively inactive and aren’t hunting for food during the winter. Instead, they rely on the fat on their body that they stored up during the summer and fall—similar to a bear, except they’ll wake up a couple of times throughout their extended nap. This makes winter one of the best times to look for and eliminate skunks. Although they will be less active, skunk dens on your property are usually best handled by a pest professional. This is because some mother skunks will create a communal den with her babies and if you wake the mama skunk and she sees you as a threat, she will spray you.
It’s important to catch skunks and close off any potential dens before breeding season, as male skunks will travel up to five miles looking for females, and what’s worse than one skunk? A family of skunks.
When Do Skunks Have Babies?
February and March are prime breeding times for skunks, and females will start to have babies by early May. You can expect each litter to have about five baby skunks—that’s could leave you in a very stinky situation if a skunk family decides to take up residence on your property.
And some females don’t just stop at one litter—female skunks can get pregnant immediately after giving birth, and if this happens, breeding could extend into the early summer.
The other thing you should be warned about during skunk breeding season: Female skunks can release a terrible odor to keep unwanted suitors away. So even if you aren’t bothering a skunk on your property, you can still end up with a nasty smell. Also, many male skunks end up getting run over by cars while searching for a female, which can also results in an extremely foul smell.
When looking for skunks during breeding season, the first place to check is under your porch or patio. Inspect these areas first during the spring to address a potential skunk issue quickly.
We had mentioned that skunks are usually on the hunt for shelter and food. If you eliminate potential dens from your property, what food sources should you eliminate as well to make your property less attractive to these nuisance animals?
What Do Skunks Eat?
As we already mentioned, skunks are omnivores and tend to have a well-balanced diet. They eat fruits, vegetables and also look for food around beehives. Part of a skunk’s diet is mde up of grasshoppers, mice, poultry, rabbits and small pests that may wreak havoc on a garden. Skunks have even been reported to eat snakes, common household spiders and cockroaches! If a skunk gets really desperate, it will dig into trash cans and dumpsters on the search for rotting food.
Because skunks will eat lots of creatures that feed on produce, some farmers will actually welcome skunks on to their property. But while this is good for farmers who want to reduce insect populations, it’s not so great for homeowners who just want to live without the risk of being “stink-bombed” by a skunk.
If you believe you might have a skunk problem, but you haven’t seen one yet, there are a few signs you should look for.
How To Detect Skunks
There are a few detection methods that you can use to determine whether it’s a skunk and not another animal that has decided to become your new neighbor:
- If you see cone-shaped holes that go three inches into the ground, you can bet that a skunk has chosen your property for its next home.
- Fleas in the house but no pets? Unfortunately, that could be a sign that a skunk or some other wild animal has made your attic or crawl space their home. To check for skunks, sprinkle a layer of flour on the floor and check it in the early hours of the morning. Since skunks are nocturnal, this is the best time to see fresh tracks. Skunk tracks have five toes with claws and typically don’t show heels or the bottom part of the foot.
- Damage to plants or crops can be a signal of skunk activity. Skunks may go after your corn, nibbling at the lower ears, but leaving the stalk alone. They will also eat one or two chickens at a time and eat eggs by crushing the edges of the shell toward the inside.
- Skunk droppings are another sure-fire indicator that these animals are hanging around. These waste materials are usually one to two inches long and up to half an inch in diameter.
Detection is key to efficient removal. Do not try to seal up your foundation or build a stronger fence unless you are sure that the skunks have left your property. As you might expect, removing a dead, rotting skunk from your crawl space is not fun. So, how can you get skunks off your property?
How To Get Rid Of Skunks
If you detect skunks living on your property, there are two ways to approach the problem. You can reduce the number of places where they want to build a den, or you can reduce the amount of food that they want to eat. Both options make your property unappealing to skunks, and they’ll go find somewhere else to call home.
If you know that a skunk is living under a building, place a cloth bag of mothballs or ammonia-soaked cloths around the area. These smells will encourage the skunks to leave within a few days. Check for tracks before you start to seal the area and attempt to prevent future infestations.
You can also make your property less attractive to these creatures by:
- Removing piles of trash around your property.
- Cutting back on overgrown bushes and shrubbery.
- Stacking firewood neatly and aboveground.
- Storing pet food inside your garage or in secure containers.
- Buying garbage locks and straps.
- Inspecting the foundation for holes and seal all openings.
- Removing food sources from your yard, basement or garden.
What About Traps?
It seems like the easiest solution for getting rid of skunks would be to head out to a hardware store and buy traps, right?
Not so fast. Skunks are considered fur-bearing animals, which means they are protected by the law in many states. If you insist on removing a skunk yourself, it is crucial that you do research on which traps are allowed in your state and what the regulations may be. You don’t want to get in trouble over trapping a skunk when a pest control professional could do it (legally) for you.
Removing Food Sources For Skunks
Once you’ve made efforts to seal up potential dens, eliminate the skunks’ food sources.
This is, unfortunately, far easier said than done.
After all, since they’re omnivores, that means there are a lot of opportunities for skunks to find a delicious meal on your property. When desperate, even trash appeals to a skunk’s appetite.
One of the biggest offenders for attracting skunks to your property is leaving pet bowls outside. If you leave food or water out for your pets at night, you might just be inviting a family of skunks to live in your backyard. Bad news for you and your pets.
So, what can you do?
A number of things:
- Use an insecticide to rid your property of yummy insects.
- If you have chickens on your property, make sure you close the doors to your coops at night and seal all entrances where skunks could get in and eat your poultry.
- Place any beehives at least three feet off the ground.
- Install protective fencing around your garden or orchard to prevent skunks from reaching fruits and veggies that they like to eat.
- Make sure garbage cans are indoors or tightly closed.
- Bring all pet food and water bowls inside, particularly at night.
Even when doing everything you can to prevent skunks, it’s still possible for them to make your home their own. When this happens, it’s time to call in a professional.
ABC Can Resolve Your Skunk Problem
A key part of getting rid of your skunk problem is actually removing them, and taking matters into your own hands is risky and can get you in trouble—both with the skunks and possibly even the law. If problems persist once you clear your property of places where skunks are most likely going to create a den, call the professionals. At ABC Home & Commercial Services, we take pest removal very seriously. We’ve seen the damage that skunks and other critters can do to homes, and we know how important it is to take care of the issue quickly and safely for both you and the creatures. Not only will we remove any wildlife from your property, we will also give you customized advice on how to make your home less attractive to skunks, as well as seal off any potential entry points. Our team members have the training and experience to handle skunk problems and can remove them from your property while staying in line with state ordinances.