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How Do I Get Rid Of A Skunk In My Backyard?

I’ve always had a soft spot for skunks, ever since those Pepé Le Pew cartoons I used to watch as a kid. However, they can be a nuisance if they keep coming into your yard, (just ask our neighbors), so how do we get rid of them humanely?

Pepé Le Pew

You get rid of skunks in your yard by spreading citrus peel, capsaicin, cat litter or coffee grinds on your flower beds, smells which they hate. They also dislike the smell of vinegar and castor oil, and are frightened of noises such as clapping and shouting.

Let’s dig down into the subject of getting rid of garden skunks in more detail, and discover what foods, smells and sounds repel them – so you don’t have to resort to more serious methods…

How Do You Tell if a Skunk is Living in Your Yard?

As you’d expect, you’ll probably smell the skunk before you see it. You don’t need a full-on blast of their scent to be able to tell there’s a skunk around: you might simply detect a musky odor coming from places like wood piles or gaps under the porch.

Then there are the “skunk holes”. These are shallow holes made in the dirt that are caused by skunks digging for grubs. Look out for tracks in the earth: skunks have five toes and claws, so watch out for these trails. You’re unlikely to see one of these shy, nocturnal animals, but the signs of its presence are clear.

What to Do if You See a Skunk in Your Yard?

Because skunks come out at night and are extremely nervy around humans, the chances of seeing one are slight. If you do spot one of these distinctive black-and-white animals, try not to scare it – you’ll swiftly regret it if you do! If it hisses, stamps its feet, thumps its tail, or does a funny little handstand movement, back away…

Keep well clear so you don’t alarm it, but try to observe where it goes. Does it have a den in your yard, or is it simply passing through? If you think that it may have a den, it’s time to plan preventative measures.

Skunks make poor neighbors because of their defensive stink, and they can also do damage to your lawn with those sharp little claws. Even though they’re pretty mild-mannered on the whole, it’s best to discourage them from hanging out.

What Attracts Skunks to Your Yard?

As with any critter, skunks are after two things: food and shelter. If you can make it harder to get food and remove any potential dens from your yard, you’re going a long way to making sure the skunks won’t move in. They prefer darker corners, so sensor lighting can really help.

How Do You Get a Skunk to Leave? (What Do Skunks Hate?)

Ironically, there are a lot of smells that skunks don’t like. This includes citrus, so a good scattering of lemon, orange, and lime peel around the flower beds will put them off digging. They also hate capsaicin and castor oil. Do you have a cat? Scatter kitty litter around any areas you suspect skunks may be visiting. 

If you suspect (and the scent is a bit of a giveaway…) that a skunk has made a den in your yard, you need to get it to leave without potentially shutting it in. You can try scattering kitty litter or unpleasant smells around the den entrance: the skunks may simply move out.

If this doesn’t work, make a temporary “plug” from something like loose leaves. This means that the skunk can still get in and out. If the leaves are undisturbed, the skunk has left: plug the entrance permanently. Leaves are disturbed? They’re still in residence. Up your harassment game, adding noise and lights to the kitty litter and lemons. 

What Home Remedy Will Get Rid of Skunks?

Skunks hate a lot of smalls, presumably with no sense of irony at all. Try scattering lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit peel around the beds (great excuse to drink more cocktails), or sprinkle used kitty litter.

You can also try making up a spray bottle of skunk deterrent. This home remedy involves steeping onions, jalapeno peppers, and chili powder in water for a couple of hours, straining, and pouring into a spray bottle. Spray likely skunk areas every three days or so, and again after it rains. 

Take a look at a few more ideas for skunk repellents (it’s like a really unpleasant recipe book…).

What Food is Poisonous to Skunks?

There are a surprising amount of foods that are poisonous to skunks. This includes onions, which is why an onion-based spray makes a good skunk deterrent. Like dogs and cats, chocolate and grapes are highly toxic, and they also can’t eat avocado or asparagus. Cat food is poisonous to skunks, which is good news for your kitty.

However, there’s no need to deliberately poison these shy and gentle animals. You should hopefully be able to deter them using scents they find repellent, along with noise and light.

Do Coffee Grounds Repel Skunks?

When it comes to repelling skunks, coffee grounds are a B-list substance. Unlike citrus or onion scents, the smell of coffee doesn’t actively irritate the skunk: they just really hate it. However, because coffee grounds are good for many plants, you might as well scatter them on your beds.

What Noise Scares Skunks?

Skunks are scared of most noises, so this is an easy win. Not sure whereabouts in your yard the skunk is? Use a whistle. Like most wild animals, they don’t like the sound of predators: a few play sessions with your dog should really help.

Above all, they don’t like unpredictable noise. Bash pans in different parts of the garden, clap your hands, have the radio on, get the kids to sing the top notes from Disney tunes… Skunks will vote with their paws when it comes to living in a noisy environment.

Note: you may want to warn your human neighbors that you’ll be turning up your household’s volume for a few days.

What Home Remedy Will Get Rid of Skunks?
What Home Remedy Will Get Rid of Skunks?

Will Vinegar Keep Skunks Away?

Skunks don’t like vinegar, so it’s yet another store cupboard ingredient you can add to your list of skunk repellents. Mix with capsicum and onion for maximum unpleasantness. 

How Do You Poison a Skunk?

It’s really not necessary to kill a skunk to get rid of it. Because they are such nervous creatures, you can persuade them to leave pretty easily, without resorting to poison. Go for scents, locating dens, noise, sensor lights, and humane traps before you call in pest control.

Can You Shoot a Skunk on Your Property?

This depends on where you live (different districts have different rules) and of course, your own license. Again, there should be no need to kill a skunk to get rid of it, and there are safer ways to make a loud noise than by firing a weapon into your yard.

How Do You Put a Skunk to Sleep?

If you have a skunk that needs putting to sleep (it’s badly injured for example), you’re best calling for a professional. A trapped or hurt skunk is more likely to spray, making this even more of a delicate procedure than it is with most wild animals.

A vet, or someone from your local wildlife service or animal shelter will be able to euthanize a badly injured skunk, using an extra long needle.

How Do You Rescue a Skunk Without Getting Sprayed?

The best way to rescue a skunk without ruining your outfit (clothes really don’t recover from a good dose of skunk juice) is to use a humane trap. Bait it with something that skunks find irresistible – eggs are a good bet.

Once the skunk is trapped, cover the cage with a tarp, which will make it feel safer and prevent you from getting sprayed. Approach from behind, as the skunk is less likely to spray you if he doesn’t see you.

Where Do Skunks Live During the Day?

Skunks are nocturnal animals, so they spend the daytime asleep in their dens. They like dark, quiet places where they feel safe. Popular den locations include wood piles, gaps under porches, and abandoned burrows.

Do Skunks Return to the Same Place?

This is the good news: skunks rarely stay in one den for more than a few days, unless they have babies. So, if you follow all the steps towards making your yard inhospitable (nasty scents, noises, bright lights, no easy food sources), the skunk will be a very temporary resident.

Do Skunks Only Come Out at Night?

Skunks are nocturnal, so their typical behavior is sleep during the day, hunt and forage at night. However, you may occasionally see a skunk during the day. Unless they’re obviously ill or injured, this generally means they have young, so need more food.

Why Do Skunks Spray Every Night?

Skunks don’t spray every night. They use their potent odor as a defense mechanism, and tend to spray only when threatened. They don’t use their odor as a scent marker like some species do.

If it seems like you’re smelling skunk spray every night, there are a few possible reasons for this. You have a lot of predators where you live; it’s the mating season; you have a nest nearby of teenage skunks who are getting ready to leave, and at this age, they’re really trigger-happy when it comes to activating their spray.

Want to know more about skunk spray (the easy way)? This film is a great introduction to the science behind skunk spray.

Do Skunks Come Out in the Day?

Skunks are nocturnal animals, and they’re also shy and scared of humans. You may occasionally see a skunk during the day, and this is probably a hungry mom, stocking up on calories so she can feed her litter. 

If there are predators around at night where you live (such as large owls), a skunk may take the decision to find food during the day. It also depends on the prey: if the skunk is looking for certain bugs, daytime can provide richer picking.

How Long Do Skunks Stay in One Den?

Skunks move den every few days, unless they have a litter of babies. However, they may return to your yard if there’s a good source of food there.

Kits stay with their moms until they’re about two months old, so that’s the maximum time you can expect to host a skunk den.

How Deep is a Skunk Den?

Unless the skunk has taken over an existing space, the den has an opening that measures about eight inches across, and is about two feet deep. It can be hard to spot a den, as they choose semi-hidden places to start digging, such as fallen logs and big rocks.

Are Skunks Aggressive?

Skunks aren’t aggressive animals at all. In fact, they’re sometimes described as “mild-mannered”, and certainly don’t seek out humans. If it wasn’t for their stink, you’d hardly know that a skunk was around at all, and they’re nowhere near as destructive as something like a raccoon in your yard.

They even give you a fair warning before they unleash their spray. Look out for foot stamping, tail thumping, growling or hissing. Tail and butt up in the air in a handstand type movement? Could be too late…

Watch the little guy in this short film. He’s demonstrating the warning signs that a skunk is about to spray. Kudos to the person brave enough to film this…

Do Skunks Bite?

Like most animals, skunks can bite, but what’s the point? A well-aimed squirt will floor an enemy without the skunk having to go within a risky distance of them. A normal, healthy skunk won’t bite, prefering to use its unique defense mechanism against any animal it perceives as a threat.

Will a Skunk Chase You?

This seems to be a persistent urban legend about skunks: that they lay in wait for humans or dogs ready to jump out, chase, and spray them. A skunk would really rather never encounter anything threatening, and certainly won’t seek out trouble.

How Many Times Can a Skunk Spray?

Good news: a skunk will eventually run out of spray. Bad news: it can spray between five and eight times before it needs to recharge. Just because it’s sprayed, it doesn’t mean you can now safely approach it.

Just remember: watch out for those warning signs, and back away slowly. Skunk spray will linger for days, and doesn’t always come out in the wash. If you’re unlucky enough to get in the firing line, here’s a useful guide about how to remove skunk odor.

Final Words

Skunks in your yard can be pest, but they are not aggressive animals and will only spray you if they feel threatened.

If you want to get rid of skunks that take up permanent residence in you garden, you don’t have to resort to poisoning or shooting them – thankfully there are many humane ways to move them on as this article describes.

And if you think you can’t handle them yourself, you can always get a vet or wildlife professional to move them away, that’s what our neighbors did in the end. 🙂

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >