How to Keep Skunks Away

A skunk’s odor is unmistakable regardless of whether the creature is living under your house, in the woodpile on your porch, digging for bugs under the garage or making a home in the shed. The good news about a skunk hanging around is that it eats termites, grubs, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, roaches, mice, rats and other annoying pests. Of course, the bad news is that a skunk’s smell is so powerful it can be detected from as far as a mile away.

Skunk musk is not poisonous, but a close encounter may cause nausea, gagging and eye irritation. Skunks are a major carrier of rabies, especially in the Midwestern United States. 

The risks associated with capturing and moving skunks should be left to a professional. Some states have laws protecting skunks, so contact your local Fish and Wildlife office before attempting to trap or poison a skunk.

Keeping skunks away and deterring them from you property is your best strategy for avoiding a smelly situation. So how can you keep skunks out of your yard? Below are some tips and natural repellents to help keep skunks away.

  • Patch holes around your foundation. Skunks are great diggers. If you're using fencing or mesh to close off certain areas, bury the material at least one and a half to two feet down. It's important to make sure skunks are outside before you seal up access points, or you may end up with animals trapped under or inside your house. 

  • Eliminate possible den sites. Removing wood and rock piles from porches and patios and clearing away debris around the home helps reduce sites for skunks to establish a den. Skunks have even been known to camp out in junked cars.

  • Get rid of bugs and rodents. These are favorite foods among skunks. If a skunk’s food source disappears, it may move on.

  • Feed your pets inside. Skunks love dog and cat food. They also enjoy feeding on the roaches and other bugs that pet food attracts. If you have outdoor pets, feed them during the day, and then remove any uneaten food before evening, when skunks are most active.

  • Store bird and pet food in an outdoor storage building or in your garage. Ensure these items are kept in sealed containers in hard to access places to prevent an easy meal for skunks.

  • Make sure garbage cans have tight-fitting lids. Skunks aren't good climbers, so keeping garbage can openings sealed and off the ground are great deterrents.

  • Disturb the peace. If you do locate a skunk's den, keep up a campaign of gentle harassment by covering up the opening with leaves or straw. Eventually the skunk may relocate.

  • Don’t rely on natural skunk repellents. Most aren't considered particularly effective. Applications of citrus oils, castor oil or predator urine have had limited degrees of success. Cayenne pepper and other hot pepper solutions may or may not be effective and pose a threat to children and pets who come into contact with them.

  • Use ammonia-soaked rags or mothballs (napthalene) in skunk hangouts. The harsh smell of ammonia and/or mothballs has been known to scare away skunks. Though they don't offer a permanent solution and will have to be reapplied as the smell of the chemicals fades, they do help in the short-term. Like other types of repellents, they could pose a threat to children and pets.

  • Use bright yard lights and loud noises. Although they have proven to have a greater potential to annoy neighbors than to scare off wildlife, arranging lights and noise machines around your property can keep skunks away. Remember, porch lights can attract insects, the main staple of the skunks' diet and terrible nuisance if you’re trying to spend time outdoors at night.

Be diligent in controlling the food sources and eliminating possible locations in which skunks could take up residence. These are the most effective measure for keeping skunks away and reducing your chances of being on the wrong end of a spray.