How To Get Rid Of A Skunk In Your Backyard

How To Get Rid Of A Skunk In Your Backyard

Skunks are known for one thing, and one thing only — their big, fluffy tails.

Okay, they’re actually better known for being the producers of a foul and disturbing smell, one that you definitely don’t want hanging around your backyard.

If you suspect a skunk has moved in to your yard, then you want to act fast, before they have a chance to stink the place up. 

A skunk in the backyard isn’t just a risk of bad smells.

Their sharp paws and clever noses might identify some pests you want to get rid of, but will also tear through your best planting (and sometimes your trash).

Before you go to bed, your yard is looking at its very best. But in the morning, you wake up to discover the nocturnal skunk has caused havoc.

There are several simple and effective ways to get skunks out of your yard and to keep them from coming back.

Ironically, one of the best ways to remove a skunk is using the same defensive tactics they employ: bad smells. In this case, of the citrus kind.

Keep reading to find out more. 

How To Tell If Skunks Are In Your Backyard

Unfortunately, you’re most likely to identify a skunk in your backyard by the smell it leaves behind.

An unexplained bad odor in the yard, plus disturbed planting and signs of digging, is very likely to be caused by skunks. 

Keep an eye out at night to see if you can spot what’s tormenting your yard. Skunks have distinctive white stripes running along the back, and a bushy tail. Most skunks are roughly the size of a house cat.

Look for any paw prints left on the ground. Skunks have five toes and a long heel. Skunks also have sharp claws, and the indentations can often be seen in the ground. 

Skunks are diggers and might leave holes in the yard if they’ve been around looking for grubs. Small, shallow holes might be a sign of a skunk searching for food.

But it is the smell that’s the most defining feature of the skunk. A low level of bad smell that hangs around the yard is generally the best way of identifying this nocturnal nuisance.

Skunks can be difficult to spot, as these nocturnal creatures move quickly and shy away from humans.

However, several of the options listed below work to deter all kinds of backyard pests!

9 Tips To Get Skunks Out Of Your Property… And Keep Them Away

1. Remove Food Sources

One of the best ways to get rid of a skunk is to remove their reasons for visiting your yard. That means clearing away the easy food sources that are likely attracting skunks or other pests such as raccoons

The first thing to do is ensure your trash cans are completely sealed with a tight-fitting lid. Place the trash can in a secure location, where it can’t be tipped over by a curious skunk.

If you have pets, either feed them indoors, or clear up any leftovers immediately. Don’t leave pet food sitting out overnight.

If you suspect there’s a skunk in the yard, supervise pets when you let them outside. When provoked, the skunk’s first instinct is to spray.

Similarly, if you like to eat outdoors, dispose of any leftovers, and make sure the area is clean.

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Clear away any dropped seeds from bird feeders, and install a feeder that can’t be easily tipped over.

It’s good to compost, but make sure the compost is securely sealed, and avoid composting food waste when you have an active skunk problem.

Taking these steps won’t guarantee skunks stay away, but it should make your yard less tempting!

2. Deter With Smells

Skunks have a very good sense of smell, which might come as a surprise to anyone who has ever smelt a skunk.

It does mean that one of the best ways to get rid of a skunk is to give them a taste of their own medicine. Strong scents can successfully deter skunks from entering your yard.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to invest in anything that smells bad to our noses. In fact, citrus peels work as a natural repellent for many kinds of pests, including skunks.

Place orange and lemon peels around the garden, and replace them when they dry up. 

An effective solution is a spicy smelling spray that will irritate the skunk’s senses.

Chop an onion and a jalapeño pepper, and place them alongside a tablespoon of cayenne pepper in 2 quarts of boiling water for roughly 20 minutes.

Strain into a spray bottle, and squirt around the yard. Reapply roughly twice a week. This is so easy to do, and the combination of smell and spice should deter skunk visitors.

Another scent that won’t bother humans but will upset skunks is predator urine, such as that from a coyote or a dog. Spray around the garden, and reapply after rainfall.

Finally, try soaking some rags in ammonia, and placing them in the skunk’s favorite spots. Make sure to replace the rags whenever they dry out. 

3. Install Motion Activated Lights

Skunks may have an incredible sense of smell, but their eyesight is lacking. And as nocturnal creatures, they can be easily startled by sudden bright lights.

You can try installing outdoor lights and leaving them on overnight, but you might not like the resulting electricity bill. Instead, consider motion activated lights, which will scare off a skunk as it tries to enter the yard.

A good option for a light that will deter animals without bothering the neighbors is a predator light, such as this option from Predator Guard.

This uses small flashing red lights to mimic the eyes of a predator, scaring away skunks that have come to root through your garbage. The flashing pattern changes so the skunks won’t get used to it and will stay away.

Look for solar operated lights, for ease of use. These charge during the day, and shine at night. With nothing to plug in and no batteries to replace, you don’t have to worry one forgetful evening will result in a ruined yard!

Check out some other motion detector lights here.

4. Add A Sprinkler

Motion activated sprinklers are a popular choice for people who have a regular pet problem. Sprinklers, such as this Motion Sensor Sprinkler by Hoont, will spray a sudden blast of water when an animal comes visiting.

A sprinkler should give your skunk a shock, and send them traveling in the other direction. 

You can find other good motion detector sprinklers here.

5. Scatter Skunk Repellent Granules

If you’ve found your homemade deterrents aren’t working, skunk granules use a strong smell and irritating ingredients to keep skunks from digging in your yard.

Skunk repellent granules typically need to be sprinkled around the edge of a plot, and then gently watered in. They then last for around 30 days, although some brands can last as long as 60.

When the skunks are digging in your yard looking for something to snack on, they’ll come across these granules in the ground.

A combination of bad smell, disgusting taste, and an itchy irritation, should send the skunk running away. And when they learn to associate your yard with these granules, they’ll give your planting a wide berth.

6. Clean Up The Yard

Skunks love to snack on grubs and insects, and this might be what’s drawing them to your yard. One of the best methods to get rid of skunks is preventative. Clear up the yard so the skunks have less reason to visit.

We aren’t suggesting that you have a dirty plot, or that you don’t take good care of your yard. However, all the things you do to encourage some biodiversity in your garden might be inviting the skunks in.

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Piles of logs, overgrown grass, and wild planting are all great ideas for attracting insects. And it’s those insects the skunks are drawn to.

Plus, they can provide nicely crafted hidey-holes for skunks to sleep in.

Mow the lawn, trim back any overhanging branches, and remove any piles of logs. Overgrown bushes can also act as shelter for skunks, so cut these back, same with shrubs.

A good trim all round might not guarantee the skunks stay away, but it will make your yard less appealing.

7. Seal Safe Spaces With Chicken Wire

As we mentioned above, one of the reasons skunks might be drawn to your yard is that they can find places to hide and shelter.

This is particularly true if you have a deck. The dark and hidden space under the deck makes an enticing den for skunks.

To keep the skunks away, use chicken wire to seal off the edges of the deck. This is an inexpensive material that can be purchased from garden centers and DIY stores.

Shop chicken wire here.

Attach the chicken wire to the underside of the decking, and bury it at least one foot underground. Skunks are good diggers, and this should prevent them from scrambling underneath.

If there are already skunks living under your decking, chicken wire can be installed to keep them from coming back. Check to make sure there aren’t any baby skunks nesting.

Skunks typically give birth to young in May or June, and they’ll stay in their dens for around eight weeks. If there are young, let them move out on their own, to avoid separating from the mother.

Otherwise, call in a professional to ensure the family is relocated safely.

When you know it’s safe to do so, install chicken wire around the deck, leaving a small, one way door. This should allow the skunk to leave, but prevent reentry.

Seal it up completely when you’re sure the skunk is gone.

8. Install A Fence

Skunks have powerful back legs and sharp claws, so you might think a fence won’t act as much of a deterrent.

However, the average skunk is unable to jump higher than three feet, and won’t use those claws for climbing. A tall fence can act as a successful barrier for keeping skunks away.

No matter how tall your fence is, it’s important to consider what goes underneath. Skunks might not be great jumpers, but they’re pretty good diggers. Make sure your fence goes at least a foot underground.

Check out these barriers for your yard here.

9. Call In A Professional

Although it is possible to buy and set humane skunk traps, we don’t recommend attempting it yourself. Skunks can carry rabies, and even healthy skunks have sharp teeth and claws.

Avoid putting yourself at risk, by contacting a professional.

Always call for professional help when dealing with an aggressive skunk.

If you’ve tried everything from citrus peels to flashing lights, and now all you have is a skunk in fight mode, contact a professional service that can deal with the skunk efficiently.

Be aware that there are regulations regarding trapping and releasing wild animals in several states. Be sure to check the laws before you take serious action.

How To Get Rid Of Skunk Smell In Your Backyard

So, you’ve managed to get rid of the skunk that’s been plaguing your planting. However, it has left a less than pleasant reminder of its stay.

Despite the fact your nocturnal visitor has been successfully shooed away, the smell has a habit of hanging around. So, what do you do about it?

Look for any skunk poop that might have been left around, and dispose of it. The poop isn’t the same as skunk spray, but it still isn’t a scent you want near your home.

Thoroughly soak the yard with a hose, to dilute the scent as much as possible. Rinse down any plants that have the smell, as this will wash the skunk fluid into the soil.

Mix 1 gallon of water with 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1 cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of dish soap. Stir until the baking soda has dissolved.

Spray the solution where the smell is, including on plants. The solution should be diluted enough not to cause any damage.

This should begin to neutralize the scent, and a few more rinses with a hose in the following days will remove it entirely.

Getting sprayed by a skunk is deeply unpleasant, and you want to act fast if this ever happens to you. Put your clothes to be washed immediately, and take a shower.

Use dish soap to wash with, as it will cut through the grease better than shower gel. Use dish soap on the hair as well, or a shampoo designed for oily hair.

Alternatively, mix 2 to 4 cups of baking soda into a bath, and take a soak. Rinse off afterwards to make sure it’s all gone.

Pets can be victims of skunk spray as well, especially if one has started visiting your yard. If this happens, get to work quickly to remove the smell.

Mix 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of dish soap. Using rubber gloves, rub the solution into your pet’s coat, avoiding the eyes.

Leave it to sit for no more than 5 minutes. Rinse with your preferred pet shampoo. You may need to repeat the process several times.

Final Thoughts

There are few backyard visitors less welcome than the smelly skunk. Luckily, there are safe and humane ways to remove them.

Despite their best defensive mechanism, skunks hate strong smells. Use citrus and bright lights to get skunk away, and clean up any food to stop them from coming back.