Skip to main content
San Diego Humane Society

Skunks: Coexisting with Wildlife

What to do if you find:

Skunks are a rabies vector species, and are illegal to possess without a special permit in California and most states. In San Diego, one skunk has tested positive for rabies in the past few years. Anyone who gets bitten while handling a skunk should notify their physician and public health department within 24 hours, and the skunk should held for testing and not handled.

Any skunk with paralysis, unsteadiness, discharges from nose and eyes or unusual behavior may be suffering from distemper, encephalitis, rabies or other diseases. Contact your local department of Animal Control for advice if an animal with these symptoms is seen.

Project Wildlife can only accept baby skunks for rehabilitation. For injured or sick adults and juveniles, please contact your local animal control or the San Diego Humane Society for assistance.

Orphaned Baby Skunks

  • Always wear gloves (latex or vinyl) when handling baby skunks!
  • Baby skunks whose eyes are still closed and whose fur is still short should be kept warm in a cardboard box lined with a towel.
  • Place the box on a heating pad set so that the temperature inside the box is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Do not feed or handle the baby skunks once you have them contained.

Sprayed by Skunks

If a person or an animal surprises a skunk in a situation where neither can retreat, the skunk will spray in self-defense.

Skunk spray in human eyes is extremely irritating and can cause temporary blindness, but no permanent damage. Flush eyes liberally with cold water to ease irritation. Wash skin with carbolic soap and water, tomato juice, or vinegar. You may be able to save clothing by washing repeatedly in vinegar water and/or hanging it outside for a month or so before dry-cleaning. For the worst sprays, however, it may be best to discard or burn the clothing.

When your pet is sprayed, the quicker you take action, the more completely you can remove the odor.

Wash your pet with diluted vinegar to counteract the chemical makeup of the skunk spray. Skunk Off and similar preparations containing neutroleum alpha, available from some pet stores, are effective.

Skunk Smell Remedy: 1 quart 3% peroxide, 1/4 c baking soda, 1 tbs. liquid hand soap. Mix all three ingredients together. Shampoo animal thoroughly keeping out of eyes, nose and mouth. Soak 5 minutes. Rinse well.

Coexisting with Skunks:

  1. Do not feed the skunks. They can easily become dependent on human food sources.
  2. Never leave pet food outside.
  3. Never discard edible garbage where skunks can get to it.
  4. Secure garbage containers and eliminate their odors. Use a small amount of vinegar or cayenne pepper in the garbage to discourage scavenging.
  5. A persistent, faint skunk odor around a hole leading under a foundation or deck indicates a skunk may be present. To find out, cover the hole with loose dirt; if a skunk is in residence, it will dig out during the night. Allow three days for this test; if dirt remains undisturbed, then close the opening with masonry, boards, or hardware cloth.
  6. Install one-way doors on entrances to skunk dens, allowing the skunk to leave at night but barring it from re-entering. Watch for any new holes. Do not use one-way doors during May through August when babies may be in the den. If the mother cannot return, the babies will starve. This is inhumane and can also cause odor problems.
  7. Place apple cider vinegar soaked rags and/or sprinkle cayenne pepper around your yard to discourage digging.
  8. Start a nontoxic insect-control program (especially for grubs) to discourage digging.
  9. Fences are effective as long as they are buried at least one and a half feet in the ground.
  10. If a skunk strays into your garage, leave a door to the outside open and let the skunk exit on its own.
  11. Securely enclose poultry in their coop, especially at night. Repair all openings in coop or fencing. Fencing should extend at least one and a half feet underground to prevent skunks and other animals from digging under.
  12. Debris and brush piles should be removed or stacked neatly to eliminate suitable den sites or hiding places.
  13. Blow-up or plastic great horned owls may be strategically placed and periodically moved to deter skunks.
  14. Lighting up of denning sites and a portable radio may cause the skunk to seek a more suitable habitat.
  15. Keep pet doors closed at night to prevent illegal entry by a skunk.
  16. Keep fruit trees picked and don't leave rotted fruit on the ground.
  17. Restrict use of birdseed. Skunks are attracted to it and to the birds and rodents that use the feeder.
  18. If possible, eliminate outdoor sources of water.
  19. Battery operated flashing lights, tape recorded human noises, scattered moth balls and vinegar-soaked rags strategically placed may deter skunks from entering your yard.
  20. Trapping and relocation of skunks is not a recommended or viable alternative. Wild animals are territorial and like species will simply take over the area vacated by the relocated or dead animal.


  • Was this article helpful?