Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are one of four wild animals considered primary carriers of rabies, along with bats, foxes and raccoons. These nocturnal foragers can do serious damage to your landscape and your home, with an infestation lowering your property value as much as 10 percent. Removing skunks from your garden can be a smelly proposition if you aren't careful, but you can encourage them to move on without encountering their malodorous defense spray.
The most effective repellent is to make your yard unfriendly to a skunk visitor. Store garbage in cans with a tight lid and remove pet food from easy access. Eliminate attractive den spots, such as wood or rock piles, and block access to crawl spaces under your house, out-buildings and porches or decks. Overwatering your lawn can also bring grubs to the surface, and skunks consider them a delicacy, so keep the area a little drier.
Pepper or castor oil sprays may be effective in convincing skunks to stay away, but you'll need to spray often, especially after rain or heavy dew. For a castor oil spray, mix the oil, dish-washing detergent and water in a 1-to-1-to-16 ratio. Create a pungent capsaicin spray by boiling an onion, jalapeno and approximately 1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper in 2 quarts of water for 20 minutes before straining it. When it's cooled, spray it around dens and plants to repel skunks and other animals. Reapply after rain or every three to five days.
Other Malodorous Options
While some wildlife experts consider this approach to be cruel, you can opt to purchase the urine of the skunk's enemies to spray around your garden. Another option is to place used cat litter near or just inside the opening to a den, making sure that the occupant is out foraging first. Rags soaked in household ammonia and tied into small balls will also send skunks scurrying when they are placed into burrows. Citrus peels, strong-smelling soaps or solid room deodorizers placed in problematic areas where skunk activity is present may also be effective.
Nuisance and Harassment
If you find potential den locations, you can loosely pack them with dirt, leaves or other debris, once you've made certain that they are uninhabited. If skunks have already taken up residence in the holes, bright lights and loud noises at dusk will discourage your new wild neighbors from staying around. Be sure to maintain a safe distance when harrying them, though; you don't want to come face to tail with an annoyed skunk.