Skunk Paradise

Skunks are beatiful creatures! Their long black and white fur is unparalled in the animal kingdom whether all white, all black, striped, or spotted – few animals can sport such a striking coat. Then why do we run when someone drops a bomb that a skunk is in the backyard? As any six year old will tell you – skunks must be avoided because “they stink!”. Well, they really don’t. If cornered and threatened, they will make you, your dog, and the neighborhood stink to a degree that can only be imagined! They have a gland below their tail which if they take that “I am going to spray you” stance, then yes, run – FAST!

Mr. Skunk on the prowl.

Our front door NEST camera has recorded four different skunks this Summer and Fall – one all black with a touch of white on nose and tail tip

A non-traditional Skunk still will make you stink!

– one nearly all white –

The nearly all-white skunk.

one with the traditional head to tail stripe and one with double white stripes on its side. I never knew skunks could be so varied in appearance.

So where do they live? Most dig dens and we speculate that they live on the hillside going down to our subdivision retention pond as an encircling fence gives them privacy from humans and a sense of security from marauding coyotes and bobcats.

Hey! Come on in! I just threw a few grubs on the grill!

I have read that they will dig under a house foundation and take up residence. I am assuming that would be an older house with a crawl space and I feel relatively secure that our new subdivision homes with monolithic concrete slabs will remain skunk proof. My fingers are crossed.

So what do skunks eat? They are considered omnivorous – meaning that they are opportunistic feeders and will eat almost anything. They will catch small mice and rodents -one point for skunks! They will dig holes in your yard and garden looking for grubs and insects – score one more for the skunk! They generally will not eat your vegatbles or ornamental plants as long as living food is available. BUT— in subdivisions like ours where a lot of new construction is happening, another food source becomes preferred. Workers on lunch break will throw scraps of food on the ground or in trash collection centers and they love processed meat and bread. That I believe is why we have a skunk problem in our neighborhood.

Construction debris with hidden morsles of burrito, enchilada, and taco supreme!

Skunks by nature are nocturnal with weak eyesight and a strong sense of smell. Several weeks ago, my neighbor, Tim, was walking his dog on a bright, beautiful morning and saw a skunk in the construction debris which contained discarded food from the day before. The skunk was oblivious to Tim as he (or she) prowled the heap looking for a bread crust or piece of ham. The skunk tired of that hunt and waddled over to the home under construction and with some difficulty climbed up the three inch high step to the garage and went inside probably intent on finding breakfast. Tim wisely did not follow. The black and white visitor stopped for a few seconds and looked at Tim (who was 50 feet away!) and decided that no threat existed and proceded to hunt fot that discarded breakfast burrito.

If he raises his tail – evacuate the area! NOW!

We tried to determine what food the skunk preferred by first leaving a slice of green pepper in view of our doorbell camera. It was still there the next morning and no skunk graced our video. We then left a Dorito chip in the same place and it disappeared within minutes but we couldn’t tell what took it. We did it again and the video showed a very faint image of what appeared to be a mouse having a grand dinner. So much for that experiment!

So how do you get rid of skunks? Mr. Skunk does not fear your dog as several stinky dogs in our neighborhood will attest.

“I almost got him just before he got me!”

Fences don’t slow them down as they easily dig under any impediment designed to keep them out. I even tried Coyote Urine pellets sprinkled around the edges of our yard. That did not work as a skunk starred in that night’s video despite the awful smelling pellets.

Live and Learn!

I called my friend and mentor, Paul, at the Bartow County Extension office and he sent me a detailed pamphlet on keeping skunks away from houses and humans. Some thoughts were obvious but are worth mentioning. Do not keep dog or cat food outside in bag or bowl. Make sure garbage can lids are tight.

Dogfood left on a back porch will bring unsavory charactors!

Be careful with bird feeders as skunks will adjust their appetite to what you inadvertently give them. When all else fails – trap them, shoot them, get a professional pest exterminator.

If you have a shotgun – do not use it! Yes you will kill the skunk but you will bear the skunkified atmosphere for days afterward. It is better, if you choose to shoot them, to use a 22 caliber rifle and first shoot them in the back to disable any control over their skunky spray – then in the head to dispatch them. A more humane method is trapping. Put some dog food in a wire cage trap that is covered with a tarp or blanket. When sprung, the skunk will not spray since it sees no adversary or so the pamphlets say. You try it first and then tell me how well it works! A professional trapper perhaps is the best and most expensive way to get rid of skunks.

According to my neighbor whose dog stunk for days, a Skunk will first hiss to warn you away.

The skunks are more than just a nuisance. We are held hostage in our houses for fear that any night wandering might lead us accidentally onto a feeding skunk. My wife screamed last night when we opened our door as my shadow fell across her view and she “knew” she saw a skunk. I have been called worse but I don’t recall when.

So skunk beware! We are actively trying to get rid of you and your kind. We and the approaching winter will succeed!…until next Spring.

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