University of Maryland Extension

Skunks

Lawn Wildlife Problems
lawn skunk damage

The skunk is a larger member of the weasel family and can grow to be about 30 inches long (tail included) and weigh about 8 pounds. Their natural habitat is around clearings, pastures and along the edge of forests. They usually nest under a hollow stump or log, but in suburban areas, they often live under porches, low decks, and sheds. Their home range is ½ to 2 square miles. However, during the breeding season, late February through late March, males are known to travel up to 5 miles per night in search of a mate. Skunks will eat almost anything whether plant or animal, but insects and larvae are some of their favorite foods. In their search for grubs in lawns and gardens they can cause some trouble by tearing up sod (see photo above). They also dig cone-shaped holes 3 inches across and about 3 inches deep in search of grubs. Skunks are not a threat to landscape plants but may become a nuisance when their digging and nesting activities are too close to houses. They may burrow under porches or even live in garages and sheds. Garbage left outdoors in plastic bags will also be raided. The occasional release of their very strong scent, if threatened by cats or dogs, can be bothersome.

Rabies is always a concern with skunks as they are common carriers of this dangerous disease. Abnormal behavior such as aimless wandering, aggressiveness, uncoordinated, or exceptional tameness towards people should be treated cautiously as it can indicate a rabid skunk.

Management

In most cases, the occasional visit of skunks in the landscape can be tolerated and no control measures are needed. However, permitting a skunk to live under a deck or porch is something most people won't tolerate. Discourage skunks by placing strong smelling repellents under these places. Rags soaked with household ammonia may work. After the skunk has left, these areas should be permanently sealed. Also, all outside food sources should be eliminated, including cat and dog food, bird feeders, exposed garbage cans and compost piles. Skunks may also be caught in live traps set close to their den. Use fish-flavored cat food or bread with peanut butter for bait. Cover the trap with a heavy cloth to make the trap more comfortable to the skunk and to reduce the chances of it discharging its scent at you. The captured skunk should be turned over to local animal control or another facility to be humanely destroyed. It cannot be relocated because of the potential spread of rabies. If you wish to trap a skunk, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources permit may be necessary.

skunk on ground
Adult Skunk

Additional Resource

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