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As a senior editor for Gardening Essentials I typically have the need to do research on problems our visitors ask about. When it comes to the issue of getting rid of skunks however, I didn’t need to look any further then my own backyard. Having my yard violated night after night the past couple of months has taught me a lesson in both patience and determination. When a skunk makes you a prisoner in your own yard it’s time for war. Sure, you can tell me they’re cute and harmless, but if you’ve seen my yard dug up or smelled my dog after getting sprayed in the face you likely would not say that any longer. The point had come to delve deep into skunk abatement and eradication techniques to see what remedies are a load of B.S. and which actually work. The below is strictly based on my opinion and experience, but the war I fought was a long one with many failed removal attempts and many learnings that came from them.
(not really that cute)
1) Bright lights will get skunks to leave
The first lesson I learned in my quest for skunk removal was many remedies found online don’t work, lights being one of those. The first night I discovered our skunk it was sitting in the middle of the yard digging for grubs illuminated by a patio light. A separate, and very bright, floodlight on motion sensor was also activated a number of times, only to show me where the skunk dug more holes looking for grubs (with plenty of light for it to see where it hadn’t yet destroyed the grass nonetheless).
2) Fox or coyote urine to chase away
The fun thing about spreading animal urine around your yard (how do they collect this anyhow?) is that these products come in plastic bottles and spray in a fine mist like hairspray. Lesson learned here; do not spray when it’s windy. Once coverage was applied however, the skunk came back the night of spraying, and again the next. I’m pretty sure the urine smell that got on my skin and the clothes I wore when spraying will keep away everything else from me directly though.
3) Mix spices and spread them around skunk nests
Although in theory this one makes sense, that dried spices like Cayenne pepper or cinnamon would deter skunks from entering s space, in reality this one did not result in a win. I put a mixture of several spices in multiple areas to no avail. I do think the skunk may have enjoyed the extra flavor on his grubs those next few nights however.
4) Using lemon or orange peels
It’s understandable that skunks don’t like the citrus scent or taste of these peels, however the amount you would need to keep skunks away from any specific area would be substantial. Even then, they may simply just go around the peels unless you can somehow build a wall out of them (and please send a picture if you can accomplish this!).
5) Hose the critters out
You could stand outside at dusk with a hose at the ready, however this could require a bit of patience. There are actually motion-activated sprinklers on the market, but once again, results are varied. They could be worth a try, but skunks have more brains in those striped little heads than you may think and it may only be a matter of time before they learn to avoid the sprinklers.
1) Grub treatment in season
I dropped the ball on this one I have to admit, which is the main reason my little friend kept visiting and digging up the yard nightly. Depending on where you live, an application of grub (beetle larvae) treatment to prevent grubbing is typically called for once from May-September. Skunks LOVE grubs and they are determined to revisit the source of where they find them. Eliminate grubs and you highly increase your chances of keeping skunks off your property. No grubs=no digging either, something I now remember every time I see another hole in the grass.
2) Ammonia soaked rags to make 'em gag
This is actually one smell skunks hate and will try to avoid as much as possible. Soak several small rags in ammonia and spread them around where the skunk may be nesting or entering your yard and they may soon stop showing up. You will need to reapply every few nights however, as the smell will dissipate.
3) Moth balls
Another scent skunks are known to avoid is moth balls. If you have ever gone into grandma’s closet you probably know why, they are pungent! Either place several in areas you know the skunk frequents around your yard, or to make them go even further crush them up first and spread around. Do be careful not to place where children or pets frequent however, as they can be dangerous if handled improperly.
4) Fence those suckers out
Skunks supposedly can dig up to 4 inches below a fence or barrier to enter your space, so something needs to be done under any fence line to keep them out. Chicken wire placed at a depth of 5-6” may work, or for more protection it is suggested to get a heavier gauge wire. Dig down and place fencing in an L-shape for best prevention of yard digging.
5) Castor oil spreading
This pest oil is mostly sold to prevent moles, weasel, and other digging pests out of soil but can work wonders with skunks as well. Many retailers sell castor oil sprays ready to hook up to a hose or ready to mix. There are a variety of castor oil varieties, so ask a hardware store attendant which one they recommend to prevent skunks and then apply liberally to your invaded space.
Hopefully the tips above put you on the right path for what not to try and what should be done to get rid of skunks in your yard. In a state of desperation as the skunk at my home invaded, I unfortunately ran through many of the myth treatments first. Not having prior knowledge of this warfare to come, I really had no good information to go from. And if anything came from my lesson and repeated violation by skunks, it’s that hopefully you won’t have to waste time finding a solution to get rid of a skunk once and for all.
Good luck and good success in keeping skunks out of your yard!