Skunks, native only to North America, damage yards, gardens and lawns by their constant digging. Skunks spray repulsive musk from glands under their tails when frightened. The scent lingers long after the skunk sprays. Although skunks can be killed through trapping, gassing and shooting, local laws may prevent killing skunks in specific methods, at certain times of the year or if a permit is needed.
The vivid black and white coloration of skunks, plus their poor eyesight and sense of smell, make them easy targets for bullets. But local laws may prohibit the shooting of skunks, even if that area does not require a permit to hunt skunks. For example, shooting skunks near homes is illegal in urban areas of Illinois because of the risk to people, but no one needs a hunting permit for skunks. Skunks that are shot will spray, according to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.
Lethal trapping of skunks may also be illegal in certain areas or certain times of the year. In the state of Illinois, for example, lethal traps for skunks can only be set in rural areas in November and December. Lethal traps set for skunks will kill other animals, including endangered animals or beneficial animals and pets, points out by Bob Acorn of the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Department. Skunks also spray when trapped. Skunks often take days to die in such traps like leg-hold traps.
Skunks live in burrows abandoned by other animals or dig their own under outhouses, garages and sheds. Some states such as California permit the lethal gassing of skunk burrows in rural areas. Gassing skunks near buildings exposes pets, livestock and people to risks. Throw sodium nitrate gas cartridges in a skunk burrow and bury the burrow to prevent the skunk's escaping.
Although armed with their powerful musk, skunks still become prey for many animals and birds of prey. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources notes that these predators include coyotes, the great horned owl and badgers. Although domestic dogs have been known to kill skunks, not all dogs are capable of killing skunks. Sprayed dogs stink and bring this stink with them wherever they go. Dogs can catch rabies from biting or being bitten by a rabid skunk.