Animal Services

Skunks

Skunk Facts

  • Skunks are burrowing animals found in almost all parts of Ontario. 
  • Skunks are omnivorous; they feed on grubs, insects, small rodents, carrion, fruits and vegetables. 
  • In Ontario, skunks breed from February to March; gestation is eight weeks – they produce four to seven young which are usually independent by mid-summer. 
  • Skunks are active all year but may be dormant during periods of extended cold. They are attracted to spaces under porches, sheds, woodpiles, rocks or debris, garbage, pet food and open composts.
  • Removing a skunk without repairing or attending to the attractants creates an opportunity for other skunks to move in.

Problems and Best Solutions

Lawns and gardens
Skunks are usually attracted to lawns and gardens, especially after a rainfall when grubs and larvae are near the surface. Skunks dig small round holes, and in some cases, roll up large chunks of sod. The grubs feed on the grass root system, destroying the grass. 

For information on natural lawn and garden care, see getting started on a pesticide free lawn.
 

Garbage/composters

Green bin contents, compost and pet food can provide a real feast for skunks. Once skunks find a food source, they will continue to return. Since skunks are poor climbers, try the following deterrents:

  • Storing green bin and garbage inside the garage or basement until the morning of pick up
  • Use a repellent-like oil of mustard or mothballs in the bottom of the green bin or garbage container
  • Secure your green bin and garbage containers so that they cannot be tipped over 
  • Use an enclosed composter
  • Feed your pet indoors

Evicting skunks from homes, sheds, porches
Skunks are burrowing animals, so spaces under porches, sheds, woodpiles, rocks or debris are an open invitation for skunks to set up house. Preventing these animals from moving in should be your priority. The following suggestions will assist you in removing skunks and will discourage them from re-entering.

Note that eviction should only be done when babies can move on their own.

Step 1: If you think you know where the entrance to the den is, check to see if it is in use. Cover the hole with dirt or balled up newspaper. If the hole is in use, the skunk will burrow through the dirt or paper. If the dirt or paper is undisturbed for three to five days, the hole can be closed permanently.

Step 2: Encourage skunks to leave on their own by making the home uninhabitable. Try:

  • Distribute urine-soaked kitty litter in and around the den. 
  • Keep the area brightly lit. 
  • Play a radio at the entrance using an all-talk radio station. 
  • Block the entrance with dirt or newspaper to create an obstacle to entry.

Install a one-way door, allowing the skunk to leave, but not re-enter. This method should not be used between April and September when skunks are rearing their young, unless the babies are mobile

Step 3: Before permanently blocking any entrance:

  • Check to see if skunks have moved out, especially between April and September when babies may be present. (see Step 1)
  • Be sure that no animal is trapped inside the den, as it will starve to death. Not only will the animal suffer but you will be left with a decomposing carcass.

Step 4: When you are sure that all skunks have left:

  • Secure the hole to prevent re-entry. 
  • Make sure all boards or galvanized heavy wire screening is extended at least 20 to 30 cm straight down and 20 to 30 cm angled 90 degrees outwards underground. Skunks are excellent diggers and continuing the barrier at a 90 degree angle makes it more difficult to dig under. See prevention skirt
  • Backfill the area with dirt. 
  • Repair siding and holes in buildings. 
  • Place wood or wire screening around base of porches and buildings as a prevention skirt
  • Make sure you cover these areas to at least 20 to 30 cm straight down and 20 to 30 cm angled 90 degrees outwards.
  • Eliminate piles of rocks or debris and stack woodpiles neatly to eliminate holes

Window wells/tree wells
Skunks can become trapped in window wells. Since they are poor climbers, you can help them out by placing a rough board or board with cleats in the well. Try to keep the angle at less than 45 degrees so that it is not too steep.

To put the board in the well, approach slowly and keep low out of sight. Retreat if the skunk stamps its front feet or raises its tail and approach again later. Keep all pets and people away and the skunk will leave on its own; usually after dark. Either leave the ramp in place permanently or place a tight cover over the wells to prevent this from happening again.


After they spray
A skunk can spray up to 10 feet with great accuracy from the two ducts located under its tail. Skunks are placid creatures and will only spray when they feel threatened. It provides advance warning by stamping its front feet, raising its tail and turning its rear end toward the threat.

To remove skunk spray from ...

Eyes Flush with large quantities of clean water. The painful irritation that occurs when the spray gets into the eyes will soon pass. Consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Pets Consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Non-living objects Use dilute chlorine bleach, ammonia or vinegar. Do a test spot to make sure these do not damage the material.
Skin Wash with carbolic soap.


Trapping, hunting and poisoning

If you live-capture a nuisance animal, and do not kill it humanely, you must, within 24 hours, either release it in close proximity to where you caught it, as directed by the Ministry of Natural resources, or, if it is sick, injured or immature, turn it over to an authorized wildlife custodian or Toronto Animal Services.

Using body gripping traps or placing poison could result in criminal charges and/or provincial charges with fines up $5,000.


Rabies
Although all warm-blooded mammals can carry the rabies virus, skunks are a major vector of the virus in Ontario. To avoid human exposure to rabies:

  • All dogs and cats living in Toronto are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies. Consult your veterinarian for more information. Stay away from all wild animals especially if they appear tame, injured or sick. Skunks exhibiting abnormal behaviour should be reported to 311.
  • If bitten by any animal, wash the wound with soap and water, contact a doctor, and report the bite to Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600. If possible, have someone keep the animal in sight so that it can be captured or confined.

For further information about rabies, visit rabies.mnr.gov.on.ca/.


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