Skunk Removal & Skunk Control – Charlottesville and Richmond Virginia
The skunk, a member of the weasel family, is represented by four species in North America. The skunk has short, stocky legs and proportionately large feet equipped with well-developed claws that enable it to be very adept at digging.
The striped skunk is characterized by prominent, lateral white stripes that run down its back. Its fur is otherwise jet black. Striped skunks are the most abundant of the four species. The body of the striped skunk is about the size of an ordinary house cat (up to 29 inches [74 cm] long and weighing about 8 pounds [3.6 kg] ). The spotted skunk is smaller (up to 21 inches [54 cm] long and weighing about 2.2 pounds [1 kg]), more weasel-like, and is readily distinguishable by white spots and short, broken white stripes in a dense jet-black coat.
The hooded skunk (Mephitis macroura) is identified by hair on the neck that is spread out into a ruff. It is 28 inches (71 cm) long and weighs the same as the striped skunk. It has an extremely long tail, as long as the head and body combined. The back and tail may be all white, or nearly all black, with two white side stripes. The hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus leucontus) has a long snout that is hairless for about 1 inch (2.5 cm) at the top. It is 26 inches (66 cm) long and weighs 4 pounds (1.8 kg). Its entire back and tail are white and the lower sides and belly are black. Skunks have the ability to discharge nauseating musk from the anal glands and are capable of several discharges, not just one.
The striped skunk is common throughout the United States and Canada. Spotted skunks are uncommon in some areas, but distributed throughout most of the United States and northern Mexico. The hooded skunk and the hog-nosed skunk are much less common than striped and spotted skunks. Hooded skunks are limited to southwestern New Mexico and western Texas. The hog-nosed skunk is found in southern Colorado, central and southern New Mexico, the southern half of Texas, and northern Mexico.
General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior
Adult skunks begin breeding in late February. Yearling females (born in the preceding year) mate in late March. Gestation usually lasts 7 to 10 weeks. Older females bear young during the first part of May, while yearling females bear young in early June. There is usually only 1 litter annually. Litters commonly consist of 4 to 6 young, but may have from 2 to 16. Younger or smaller females have smaller litters than older or larger females. The young stay with the female until fall. Both sexes mature by the following spring. The age potential for a skunk is about 10 years, but few live beyond 3 years in the wild.
The normal home range of the skunk is l/2 to 2 miles (2 to 5 km) in diameter. During the breeding season, a male may travel 4 to 5 miles (6.4 to 8 km) each night.
Skunks are dormant for about a month during the coldest part of winter. They may den together in winter for warmth, but generally are not sociable. They are nocturnal in habit, rather slow-moving and deliberate, and have great confidence in defending themselves against other animals.
Skunks inhabit clearings, pastures, and open lands bordering forests. On prairies, skunks seek cover in the thickets and timber fringes along streams. They establish dens in hollow logs or may climb trees and use hollow limbs.
Skunks eat plant and animal foods in about equal amounts during fall and winter. They eat considerably more animal matter during spring and summer when insects, their preferred food, are more available. Grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets are the adult insects most often taken. Field and house mice are regular and important items in the skunk diet, particularly in winter. Rats, cottontail rabbits, and other small mammals are taken when other food is scarce.
Damage and Damage Identification
Skunks become a nuisance when their burrowing and feeding habits conflict with humans. They may burrow under porches or buildings by entering foundation openings. Garbage or refuse left outdoors may be disturbed by skunks. Skunks may damage beehives by attempting to feed on bees. Occasionally, they feed on corn, eating only the lower ears. If the cornstalk is knocked over, however, raccoons are more likely the cause of damage.
Damage to the upper ears of corn is indicative of birds, deer, or squirrels. Skunks dig holes in lawns, golf courses, and gardens to search for insect grubs found in the soil. Digging normally appears as small, 3- to 4-inch (7- to 10-cm) cone-shaped holes or patches of upturned earth. Several other animals, including domestic dogs, also dig in lawns.
Skunks occasionally kill poultry and eat eggs. They normally do not climb fences to get to poultry. By contrast, rats, weasels, mink, and raccoons regularly climb fences. If skunks gain access, they will normally feed on the eggs and occasionally kill one or two fowl. Eggs usually are opened on one end with the edges crushed inward. Weasels, mink, dogs and raccoons usually kill several chickens or ducks at a time. Dogs will often severely mutilate poultry.
Tracks may be used to identify the animal causing damage. Both the hind and forefeet of skunks have five toes. In some cases, the fifth toe may not be obvious. Claw marks are usually visible, but the heels of the forefeet normally are not. The hindfeet tracks are approximately 2 1/2 inches long (6.3 cm). Skunk droppings can often be identified by the undigested insect parts they contain. Droppings are 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6 to 13 mm) in diameter and 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) long.
Odor is not always a reliable indicator of the presence or absence of skunks. Sometimes dogs, cats, or other animals that have been sprayed by skunks move under houses and make owners mistakenly think skunks are present.
Rabies may be carried by skunks on occasion. Skunks are the primary carriers of rabies in the Midwest. When rabies outbreaks occur, the ease with which rabid animals can be contacted increases. Therefore, rabid skunks are prime vectors for the spread of the virus.
Avoid overly aggressive skunks that approach without hesitation. Any skunk showing abnormal behavior, such as daytime activity, may be rabid and should be treated with caution. Report suspicious behavior to local animal control authorities or contact our Richmond and Charlottesville Virginia skunk removal experts.
Striped skunks are not protected by law in most states, but the spotted skunk is fully protected in some. Legal status and licensing requirements vary. Check with state wildlife officials before removing any skunks.
Damage Prevention and Control Methods
Our Richmond and Charlottesville Virginia skunk removal experts have found the best way to keep skunks from denning under buildings is by sealing off all foundation openings. Cover all openings with wire mesh, sheet metal, or concrete. Bury fencing 1 1/2 to 2 feet (0.4 to 0.6 m) where skunks can gain access by digging. Seal all ground-level openings into poultry buildings and close doors at night. Poultry yards and coops without subsurface foundations may be fenced with 3-foot (1-m) wire mesh fencing. Bury the lowest foot (0.3 m) of fencing with the bottom 6 inches (15.2 cm) bent outward from the yard or building.
Skunks can be excluded from window wells or similar pits with mesh fencing. Place beehives on stands 3 feet (1 m) high. It may be necessary to install aluminum guards around the bases of hives if skunks attempt to climb the supports. Skunks, however, normally do not climb. Use tight-fit-ting lids to keep skunks out of garbage cans.
Properly dispose of garbage or other food sources that will attract skunks. Skunks are often attracted to rodents living in barns, crawl spaces, sheds, and garages. Rodent control programs may be necessary to eliminate this attraction.
Debris such as lumber, fence posts, and junk cars provide shelter for skunks, and may encourage them to use an area. Clean up the area to discourage skunks.
Lights and sounds may provide temporary relief from skunk activity.
There are no registered repellents for skunks. Most mammals, including skunks, can sometimes be discouraged from entering enclosed areas with moth balls or moth flakes (naphthalene). This material needs to be used in sufficient quantities and replaced often if it is to be effective. Ammonia-soaked cloths may also repel skunks. Repellents are only a temporary measure. Permanent solutions require other methods.
No toxicants are registered for use in controlling skunks.
Two types of gas cartridges are registered for fumigating skunk burrows. Fumigation kills skunks and any other animals present in the burrows by suffocation or toxic gases. Follow label directions and take care to avoid fire hazards when used near structures.
Richmond and Charlottesville Virginia skunk removal is best handled by a professional Wildlife Control Operator (WCO).
Odor Removal. Many individuals find the smell of skunk musk nauseating. The scent is persistent and difficult to remove. Diluted solutions of vinegar or tomato juice may be used to eliminate most of the odor from people, pets, or clothing Editor’s note: These methods are not effective.
Clothing may also be soaked in weak solutions of household chloride bleach or ammonia. On camping trips, clothing can be smoked over a cedar or juniper fire. Neutroleum alpha is a scent-masking solution that can be applied to the sprayed area to reduce the odor. It is available through some commercial cleaning suppliers and the local USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services office.
Walls or structural areas that have been sprayed by skunks can be washed down with vinegar or tomato juice solutions or sprayed with neutroleum alpha. Use ventilation fans to speed up the process of odor dissipation.
Where musk has entered the eyes, severe burning and an excessive tear flow may occur. Temporary blindness of 10 or 15 minutes may result. Rinse the eyes with water to speed recovery.
Our Richmond and Charlottesville Virginia skunk removal experts can assist with skunk odor removal from your home or business.
Economics of Damage and Control
Skunks should not be needlessly destroyed. They are highly beneficial to farmers, gardeners, and landowners because they feed on large numbers of agricultural and garden pests. They prey on field mice and rats, both of which may girdle trees or cause health problems. Occasionally they eat moles, which cause damage to lawns, or insects such as white grubs, cutworms, potato beetle grubs, and other species that damage lawns, crops, or hay.
Skunks occasionally feed on ground-nesting birds, but their impact is usually minimal due to the large abundance of alternative foods. Skunks also feed on the eggs of upland game birds and waterfowl. In waterfowl production areas, nest destruction by egg-seeking predators such as skunks can significantly reduce reproduction. The occasional problems caused by the presence of skunks are generally outweighed by their beneficial habits. Some people even allow skunks to den under abandoned buildings or woodpiles. Unless skunks become really bothersome, they should be left alone. An economic evaluation of the feeding habits of skunks shows that only 5% of the diet is made up of items that are economically valuable to people.
The hide of the skunk is tough, durable, and able to withstand rough use. Generally there is little market for skunk pelts but when other furbearer prices are high, skunks are worth pelting.
If you need to hire a Richmond and Charlottesville Virginia skunk removal company, call us today at (434) 270-0488 or visit Charlottesville Skunk Removal & Animal Removal for additional animal removal services in the Charlottesville and Richmond VA areas.
Source: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Editors, Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm, Gary E. Larson. 1994. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2 vols.