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Skunks - Prevention and Solutions

Ahhh, if only all skunks were as loveable as Pepe Le Pew, right?  However, Pepe Le Pewthe reality is they are not.  Skunks living in America are not a new thing.  They have been here longer than the buildings we live in. Their populations may thin out for a few years, and then explode back up for a couple generations.  Weather conditions, such as mild winters, can change their habits and contribute to them breeding twice a year at times.

Skunks can be beneficial at times.  They tend to eat a lot of wasps, bees, crickets, beetles, and beetle larvae (grubs).  They are useful in thinning populations of small rodents such as mice and voles. When they can’t find living creatures, they do eat carrion and even fruits and vegetables.  But oh, that smell. It is something no one can ever forget.

Skunks like to live out of sight. Their habitats are usually located around empty fields, forests and railway tracks. But, when these areas are not supplying them with enough food or shelter, skunks will branch out into neighborhoods. They like to hunt at night, but will come out during daylight hours if they cannot find enough food.

Removing all of the skunks from a neighborhood, village or county is an impossible task and can greatly affect the ecosystem. Removing the species will only bring in critters from outside.  With them come different diseases and larger problems.  The Village of Vernon Hills encourages public education when dealing with all wild animals.  While the animals travel all around scavenging for food, there are a few things you as a homeowner can do to keep them out of your own yard.

What you can do:

Keep their food sources out of their reach.  Close garbage cans, fence in gardens and control insects such as grubs in your lawn. Limit bird feeders.  The spilled bird food is a meal for them as well as the birds that they can catch.

Close up possible dens around your house.  Wood piles, holes under door stoops, gaps below decks and even sheds that do not get much use can all be prime nesting spaces for wild animals.  If you find you have gaps under your deck, close them up at night when the skunks are hunting for food.  Make sure you countersink any boards at least 6 inches below ground so that the animals cannot dig underneath it.
 

Consider using repellents.  There are commercial grade repellents available for sale, however they can get pricey.  The best substance to drive away animals is good old mothballs.  Place these around any area you believe the skunk may be active.  Do not put them in areas where it will affect your edible vegetation or where ventilation will bring the odors into your house.  If you are concerned about your pet eating them, place them in old stockings.   You can also use rags soaked in common ammonia in the same fashion.  Do not pour the ammonia directly into the lawn for two reasons, one it will damage the lawn.  Two, it will be quick to dissipate.  You may also try scattering cayenne pepper around to discourage their scavenging.  Coating the outside bottom quarter edge of your garbage cans with cayenne pepper should stop them from knocking over trash cans for the food inside.

There are non-chemical types of repellents available.  Motion controlled flood lights work great.  Skunks do not like the light. They are also very effective in deterring criminal activity in your yard. Consider setting up a radio and tune into any talk radio channel.  The voices and the light will give the animals the impression someone is out there.  There are motion sensitive lawn sprinklers available from hardware stores and online.  They hook up to your hose and squirt the critters whenever they are detected.

When you walk at night, keep a flashlight and keys with you, at the ready.  Loudly jingling keys and flashing them with light before you get right up on them will scare them off before any encounter.  If you do get up close with one, back away slowly.  Skunks do not want confrontation and don’t want to spray you.  They will spray only when they are threatened and cannot retreat in time.  When they have time to warn you, they will get low to the ground, stomp their paws and raise their tail.  If you don’t back off, they will turn around to spray.

Residents are not permitted to trap and/or kill skunks without a license (state law 520 ILCS 5).  Poisons are indiscriminate and can kill a neighbors pet.  Use of any firearm or any projectile weapon (BB Gun, air soft pistol, bow & arrow…) is against the law. (NOTE:  Below is some information on trapping services.)

Residents are not encouraged to put out food or otherwise harbor skunks.  By definition, an animal "owner" means any person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as it's custodian. (State law 510 ILCS 5/2.16).  Feeding or otherwise caring for skunks is prohibited under Local Ordinance Sec.4-7.

If a skunk has sprayed:

If you are trying to get rid of the scent on a pet or a surface that has been sprayed, tomato juice does not work as well as you think.  Instead, try mixing this:

1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda 
1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap (Dawn)

Wear rubber gloves. Use immediately, and outdoors, if at all possible, to keep the volatile skunk spray out of your house. Rinse after five minutes and repeat if needed. Warning: Do not store this mixture! Use it immediately after mixing. If left in a closed container, the oxygen gas released could make the container burst. This mixture can bleach fur and hair color. Clothes or other fabric items sprayed directly may be best thrown away. Fabric that picked up the smell indirectly, as well as buildings and similar surfaces, can be washed with one cup of liquid laundry bleach per gallon of water. (This may bleach colors.)

Conclusion

While skunks are not fun to be with, they are here to stay.  Learning to live with them is necessary, for us and for them.  If you want to learn more, here are two sites worth checking out:

http://www.dnr.state.il.us/orc/wildlife/furbearers/striped_skunk.htm
http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/skunks/tips/solving_problems_skunks.html

Trapping Services

Residents are reminded that the Village does not trap wild animals on private property.  Homeowners are responsible for their own property and can hire a trapper if they so desire.

The Village does not make recommendations on trapping services.  However, in an effort to assist residents in locating a trapping service we are providing the below information.  All three services have previously conducted business in and are familiar with the Vernon Hills area. (They are listed in alphabetical order.)

County Wildlife Control   (847) 949-5655
Illinois Wildlife Control    (815) 337-2719
JD's Wildlife Services     (847) 769-9905