Size: Adults are about 22 to 26 inches in length and weigh anywhere from 3 to 12 pounds.

Color: These animals are typically easy to identify, with a mostly black fur coat and two long, white stripes going down their back. In rare cases, these colors are sometimes reversed.

Behavior: Skunks are nocturnal animals, going in search of food primarily at night. During the day, they use dens as safe havens. They can be beneficial near lawns and gardens because they feed on damaging insects and grubs, snakes and rats. However, their habit of digging can make them unwelcome pests.

Female skunks build burrows to give birth in and raise their young. These young are referred to as kits. The young follow and hunt with their mother beginning at 2 or 3 months of age, although they will continue to stay with their mother until they are about a year old.

Skunks have the ability to produce an odor that wards off predators for a 15-foot target radius. The smell is produced from glands on either side of their anal region. It contains sulfur and other ingredients that, in some, can cause temporary blindness. These animals are common carriers of rabies, in addition to histoplasmosis, mastitis and canine distemper. They typically only transfer rabies to other animals. Transmission occurs only through saliva and does not occur when they spray. Most diseases they carry cannot be directly transmitted to humans.

Skunks are not social animals and prefer to keep to themselves, although females may choose to stay together in cold weather in order to share warmth. They acquire dens built by other animals or build their own, and use these dens throughout all seasons to sleep and take shelter from the cold. If given the opportunity, they will take shelter under raised porches and patios or in crawl spaces, in addition to mobile homes and buildings.

Skunks can sometimes be located by following faint odors that may be detected in areas where they have fed or traveled through. They may also leave track marks, droppings or holes where they have dug for food. These holes are about 1 to 3 inches in length and are similar to squirrel holes. Typically, many holes will occur within the same few square yards.

Skunk dens are slight depressions located in areas where there is no grass, often near wooden structures like sheds, porches or patios. Two-inch long hairs may be found just outside the entrance and there should be a noticeable stench. Eliminating access to potential den sites can help prevent a skunk population in and around your home. You can do this with hardware cloth, boards and flashing metal. You should also reduce access to food and ensure live ducks or chickens are kept in a secure area.

Removing these animals from your home or yard can be a difficult dilemma. Live trapping is possible. Because females may burrow together, more than one trap may be necessary. For more information about your options, call a pest management professional.