Skunks have become accustomed to humans, thriving in
semi-open agricultural areas, mixed woods, meadows and even urban areas. In the
fall, skunks feed voraciously, building up fat reserves for winter dormancy.
With the onset of cold weather, skunks seek out dens, becoming inactive for the
winter. Areas that provide dark secure hiding places such as under barns,
utility sheds and porches are common denning sites. They may appear for short
periods in winter during prolonged mild spells. Mating occurs in late February
and early March when males become active, leaving their dens in search of
After a gestation period of 62 days, females produce five
kits on average with the young being born in late April or May. Within a month,
the females and young can be seen actively foraging for food. Skunks are
omnivorous, eating both animal and plant material, with insect larvae forming a
large part of their diet.
The Great Horned Owl is their main natural predator but
coyotes, foxes and dogs can take the occasional skunk. Vehicles and disease are
other causes of mortality. Skunk numbers are periodically reduced with outbreaks
Skunks in the Urban Environment
Skunks readily adapt to the urban environment and their
offensive odour and habit of digging holes in lawns in search of insect larvae,
make it an unwelcome urban resident. Irrespective of chance encounters by
family pets, the skunk can be beneficial to homeowners when foraging for June
bug larvae. June bug larvae feed on grass roots resulting in damage to the lawn
and in cases of severe infestation can kill large areas of grass.
Traps and Trapping
Traps suitable for live-trapping skunks can be rented,
purchased, or constructed. Local rental agencies have a number of traps
available at a reasonable fee or they may be purchased from a hardware store. On
the other hand, a suitable trap is easily constructed from scrap material using
the plan illustrated.
Nuisance animal control operators can trap problem
animals for a prescribed fee. There are a number of licensed individuals who
are prepared to assist anyone with a skunk problem.
Minimizing Skunk Problems
June bugs mate in May and June and are attracted to yard
and window lights. The use of amber coloured lights and the drawing of window
blinds in the evening will lessen the attraction of June bugs to a property.
Fewer June bugs will result in fewer larvae. As well, you can treat the lawn
with insecticides to reduce the incidence of larvae. Insecticides are available
from farm and garden supply stores. Garbage left out-of-doors in unsecured
containers is not only a source of food to local cats and dogs, but to skunks as
well. Garbage should be confined in a secure container indoors.
Utility buildings and porches that have no secure
foundation are open invitations to skunks as denning areas. Concrete foundations
or wire screening extending into the ground will make these areas inaccessible
Skunks can be trapped at entrances of known denning
sites, or trapped about their feeding areas. A wooden box trap with a wire mesh
end is ideal. Leg hold traps or any kill device such as a conibear trap should
be avoided. Skunks caught in box traps can be safely moved if caution is taken
to avoid shaking the trap. Wire mesh traps must be carefully covered with a
cloth material before moving. Skunks caught in box traps can be released or
disposed of by one of two suggested methods - drowning or chloroforming while
still in the trap. To release an animal, the door is opened permitting the
animal to leave on its own, unmolested. It is advisable to stand upwind when
releasing an animal. To dispose of an animal by drowning, submerge the trap in
water for a sufficient period of time to insure the animal drowns. When using
chloroform, place the trap in a plastic bag, pour chloroform on a piece of paper
towel and place on the trap, then close the bag tightly and leave for an hour.
Sick or Diseased Animals
Any sick or diseased skunk should be reported to local
Fish and Wildlife officials.