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San Diego Humane Society

Skunks: Coexisting with Wildlife

Background Information

  • Two species of skunks live in the San Diego area, Spotted and Striped.
  • Project Wildlife helps mainly babies.
  • The skunk "baby season" runs from late April to early June in the San Diego area.
  • All skunks including babies emit the "skunk odor".
  • Skunks are rabies vectors and require special handling, but usually only one or so is discovered with the disease every few years.
  • Anyone bitten by a skunk should notify their physician and the public health department immediately.
  • These gentile mammals live in every urban environment and play a role in controlling such things as Black Widow Spiders, rodents and reptiles so the public should be encouraged to leave them alone.
  • Trapping and re-locating them is illegal and seldom effective.
    • The better solution is to eliminate the food (especially pet food), access to garbage cans, fruit on the ground, grubs in the lawn and excess food falling from the bird feeder. Also water sources may be attracting them.
    • Common calls to Project Wildlife are about skunks in the yard.
  • Skunks may be found living in such places as cavities under your house, decks or wood piles

Tips for 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.

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.

Orphaned Baby Skunks

If a baby skunk is found that looks abandoned, carefully place a laundry basket over the babies and wait out of site to see if the mom returns. If the mom does not return, they will need to come to the care center. Below are tips for handling 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.
  • Keep them warm, dark and quiet.

Adult Skunks

Skunks play an important role in keeping nature in balance. It is important not to harm these animals. If you find one in your yard, usually by eliminating all food and water sources they will leave on their own. If needed, to further deter them, ammonia soaked rags, moth balls, loud music and bright lights tend to work. Below are more helpful tips: 

  • If a skunk is living under the house, shed or wood pile during "baby season" (April to early June), it is best to wait until the babies have grown.
    • Its important to block access to the area after they have left.
  • If a skunk is found to be sick or bleeding. Place a laundry basket over the animal only if it is safe to do so and contact animal control. Be aware: They may be suffering from distemper, encephalitis or rabies.

Sprayed by Skunks

  • If you or a pet was sprayed by a skunk. Skunk spray is an oil and requires oil cutting soaps and deodorants. Skunk Smell Remedy.

 

Skunks are rabies vectors and require special handling,

but usually only one or so is discovered with the disease every few years.

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