How to Get Rid of Skunks and Its Odors

Identifying skunks by their appearance, behavior, and habitat and getting rid of them with eight methods.
By
Phyllis McMahon
Phyllis McMahon
Research Writer
Phyllis teaches English Literature at a local college and loves writing in her free time. She’s also a great cook – her British beef Wellington is something the best res read more
reviewed
Reviewed By
Chas Kempf
Chas Kempf
Expert Consultant
Chas works in a professional pest control company and knows all the nuances of this job. Also, he’s a fantastic tennis player and loves to organize BBQ parties for his fam read more
Last updated: January 17, 2023
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There is no doubt that everyone has heard about skunks. After all, they are pretty much synonymous with bad smells, even though they don’t ordinarily smell all that bad on their own. These mostly peaceful creatures are actually quite beneficial to have around since they eat insects that cause lots of problems in a garden. They can, however, cause quite the stink if they are threatened, which is precisely why you need to know how to get rid of skunks that might be wandering onto your property.

In this article, we will guide you through everything you need to know to make sure that you can quickly, easily, and safely remove skunks from your property without too much trouble. We will also help you to have a better understanding of skunks as well so that you can more easily get them off of your property.

Identifying a Skunk

How to Get Rid of Skunks and Its Odors

The first thing that you need to do if you want to remove a skunk from your property is to make sure that it is, in fact, a skunk. This can be a bit difficult since these creatures are generally nocturnal. If you know what to look for, however, you should be able to make a positive identification without too much trouble.

Appearance

Though there are four different types of skunks that can be found in the United States, each of these critters generally have very similar features that you can use to identify them. For starters, skunks have very short legs and large feet that are tipped with large claws. They use these claws for digging. All skunks feature a different array of black with some sort of white accent, depending on the type of skunk. Each type of skunk also has a very large and fluffy tail, which helps to separate it from the rest of the weasel family to which they are closely related.

Depending on where you are located within the United States, you are likely to encounter one of the following types of skunks:

  • Striped – these are perhaps the most common type of skunk. As the name would suggest, these skunks feature white stripes down their back and onto their tail. Otherwise, their fur is completely black.
  • Hooded – these skunks appear to be wearing a hooded jacket, which is actually made from white fur. This fur covers their entire tail, back, neck, and head.
  • Hognose – these skunks have white backs and tails, while the rest of their body is covered in black fur. Their nose and mouth are quite elongated and do not have any fur on them.
  • Spotted –as the name would suggest, these skunks do not feature any sort of striping but rather appear to be covered in black and white spots. These skunks are a bit rare, which means that they are usually protected by wildlife laws.

Behavior

How to Get Rid of Skunks and Its Odors

One of the biggest reasons that it might be difficult to determine whether or not you have a skunk on your premises is that they are generally nocturnal. This, of course, means that they are up at night mostly, which makes them much more difficult to spot. There are some pretty obvious tells. However, that will let you know that you need to get rid of skunks around your home.

Skunks love to eat insects and other invertebrates. In fact, they especially enjoy burrowing bugs, such as worms, centipedes, and grubs. While this might help your garden grow on its face, it can be quite problematic as well since they need to dig to find their food. As such, they tend to dig up gardens and turf, which is a pretty clear sign that you might have a skunk issue.

If you ever actually come across a skunk, there are some behaviors to watch out for. Obviously, a skunk can spray a noxious liquid when threatened. However, they don’t usually want to resort to this option since they have a limited amount of this liquid, and it takes their body a bit to create more. If they use their spray on you, they are left defenseless for a while. Due to this fact, they will usually show some warning signs before spraying. This might include stomping, lifting their tail, or even doing a handstand. All of these behaviors are warnings telling you that they will spray soon. When in doubt, if you see a skunk, just get away from it.

Habitat

How to Get Rid of Skunks and Its Odors

Skunks tend to live in wooded areas but have also been found to be pretty adaptable. It is not uncommon to see them in brushy areas, near water, or even roaming through a suburban neighborhood. They are a very common animal in the lower forty-eight states, so you should not be surprised if you find one in your backyard. Skunks like to sleep in burrows or under fallen brush. If you find any holes on your property, or if you have any piles of brush lying about, they could easily harbor a skunk or a litany of other critters that like to call these areas home.

Getting Rid of Skunks

Though skunks might be beneficial in some ways, you probably do not want them lurking about your home and yard. For starters, they could easily destroy your plants with their incessant digging for grubs and worms. They could also be a smelly issue for you and your family, especially if you have a dog or a cat that roams about in the yard as well. In this section, we will guide you through all of the different options you might try to remove skunks from your property forever without too much trouble.

1.     Get Rid of Food Sources

One of the best ways to get rid of skunks is to get rid of the food sources that they are finding so tempting on your territory. As we have mentioned, these mammals love to eat insects and other invertebrates. They might also like to eat moles as well. If you remove them from your garden and home, either through natural processes such as other insects or through chemical sprays, you should be able to clear out any skunks as well. Of course, if you have a large property, this could prove to be problematic since it is difficult to remove every tiny bug from a big area. You can also use the best mole killers to get rid of any moles the skunks are trying to eat.

2.     Get Rid of Shelters

The next step in trying to rid your property of skunks is to remove the areas where they might be trying to shelter during the day. This could include brushy areas, dead trees, or burrows. You also want to look around any decking that you might have to make sure that nothing the size of a skunk could get under it to set up shop and stay for the long haul. You need to be careful when removing these areas, especially if you think a skunk is living there, as they may come out and spray you.

3.     Use Light and Noise Repellents

How to Get Rid of Skunks and Its Odors

Another good method for keeping out skunks as well as other pests such as raccoons and deer is noise and light repellants. These devices, like the GARDEN SECRETS Ultrasonic Repellent, are usually battery or solar-operated. They emit either a sound that only animals can hear or use light to scare animals away during the night when they are most active. These motion-activated devices are highly effective, but you need pretty many of them to get the job done.

4.     Use Motion-activated Sprinklers

If you have a water hookup nearby, you could also install a motion-activated sprinkler. As the name implies, these sprinklers will only turn on when their sensor picks up any movement. This will cause the sprinkler to turn on, which in turn will squirt the skunk or other critter as they are moseying by on their nightly journeys. This will, of course, scare them off, as most animals do not like to get wet, especially if it is a surprise.

5.     Use Chemical Repellents

You could also utilize some chemical repellants to prevent skunks from coming onto your land. These sprays, like the Natural Armor Animal & Rodent Repellent Spray, have a smell that animals like skunks cannot stand. You simply spray the chemical all around your property and let it do its job. The only big issue with this method of a deterrent, however, is that you will need to reapply it regularly. This is especially true if you live in a wet area where it rains often, as this will wash away the spray quickly.

6.     Set Traps

How to Get Rid of Skunks and Its Odors

Another way to stop skunks from frequenting your property would be to set up traps. Since they are about the same size, you could use a raccoon trap to catch your problematic skunks as well. Consider checking out our compilation of the best raccoon traps to keep both of them under control.

The only thing that you need to be careful about with this idea, however, is making sure that you don’t get sprayed by the skunk in question. To prevent this, you should have a heavy piece of fabric to throw over the cage from a distance so that the skunk will not see you coming when you go to move the cage.

7.     Hunt the Skunks

If you truly want to make sure that the skunks never return, and your local laws allow it, you can always hunt them down. This can be done in a variety of ways. You can set up at night with red lights and utilize different calls to bring the skunks to you so that you can do away with them. Or you can utilize different bait-based poisons, like those that you would use for groundhogs. These poisons are quick acting and should end the life of any skunk that ingests them. Of course, this can cause issues if you have pets or small kids roaming your land as well, so take that into account before you decide to go this route. You can find such poisons in the selection of the best groundhog poisons if you are planning to use this type of skunk elimination.

8.     Contact a professional

When all else fails in your quest to remove your skunks from your land, you can always resort to calling in a professional pest control group. While this is by far the most expensive option, it will take all of the work away from you and put it in their highly capable hands. By getting a professional to get rid of your skunks, you will ensure that you won’t be the one sprayed or have to take the time to set up all of these different systems of deterrent or removal, which makes this a very enticing option.

How to Neutralize Skunk Odors

How to Get Rid of Skunks and Its Odors

If you, or more likely, one of your pets, is sprayed by a skunk, there are several things that you can do to try and neutralize the odor. For starters, you should remove the offending clothing and wash it with either a commercial product designed for the removal of skunk odors or a home remedy. The home remedy is 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of baking soda, and 1-2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap. This can also be applied to skin and animal fur as necessary to remove the oily liquid that causes the horrendous stench. Clothing should be allowed to dry outside and hang up for a good long while in the sunshine so that the rays can help to remove any residual smell.

Preventing Skunks

Once you have gotten rid of the skunks from your deck or land, you should take steps to prevent them from finding their way back into your property. To do this, make sure that any food sources are not available for the skunks, and also take the time to remove any possible shelters for a family of skunks. Otherwise, you will probably find them on your land again pretty quickly.

FAQ

Will skunks attack pets?

Skunks are generally very peaceful creatures, but they will defend themselves if threatened. Their main defense is, of course, their horrible smell, but they will also use their teeth or claws if cornered. As such, you should try your best to keep your pets close at hand if you fear that you have any skunks on your property.

Why are skunks on my property?

As we have said before, skunks will be on your property for a variety of reasons. It could be that they have found a good source of food, like insects, moles, or even uncovered garbage. It could be because they have found the types of shelters that they like, such as fallen logs, piles of brush, or the underside of a deck. No matter the reason that you have skunks, you need to make sure that you remove them. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a very smelly situation.

When should you call an exterminator for skunks?

You should call for an exterminator for skunks if you cannot remove them yourself. If they have found a way into a hard-to-reach area and you cannot get them out, then it is best to call in a professional. This is also very true if they appear to be sick. The last thing that you need to worry about is removing a rabid skunk on your own.

What does a skunk with rabies look like?

Unfortunately for skunks and those that live around them, they are one of the main carriers of rabies in the United States. If a skunk has rabies, then it might act in very odd ways. This can include being active during the day, aggressiveness, stumbling, vocalizations, and seizures. If you see a skunk exhibiting any of these symptoms, you need to stay away from it and immediately call your local animal control group to have it promptly removed from the area.

Final Thoughts

Skunks can be a very problematic houseguest. Aside from their propensity for a smelly posterior, they can also dig up gardens and be vectors for diseases such as rabies. As such, you need to make sure that you know how to get rid of skunks from your land as quickly and efficiently as possible. This can include prevention, deterrents, removal, or extermination, based on your particular case. No matter what, be sure that you do not get attempt anything that you are uncomfortable with. When all else fails, don’t be afraid to call someone in to help you remove these fluffy, yet noxious neighbors.

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