Skunks in the wild are different from the adorable animals you see in the zoo or on television. Besides letting off an unpleasant odor, skunks also cause lawn and home damage. You'll find they're not so cute as they go after your chickens or knock over your trash cans. The good news is you don't have to put up with skunks for long.

Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) spraying, USA
credit: Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/GettyImages
How To Get Rid Of Skunks

Eliminate Food Sources

Skunks are foragers and don't mind digging for their supper. They especially enjoy insects and small burrowing animals, such as moles or mice. Skunks are also known to eat birds, including chickens, and their eggs. If you grow food, such as vegetables or berries, you're also providing a possible feast for skunks.

To make your property less tempting for skunks, make it more difficult for them to access food sources. A fenced-in garden keeps skunks from making a meal out of your vegetables and berries. If you have nut or fruit trees, pick up anything that falls to the ground so they don't attract skunks.

If you keep chickens or other small livestock, keep their homes in good repair so there are no access points for skunks. Board up all holes and secure doors and windows at night to keep out these nocturnal feeders.

Consider other food sources as well. Clean up pet food and food or crumbs left behind after parties and barbecues. If trash cans are easy for wildlife to get into, consider storing them in a shed. As birdhouses attract skunks, hang them high out of reach and clean up stray bird food.

Remove Possible Shelter

Skunks love cluttered yards. Wood piles, compost heaps and hollow trees are good places for skunks to hide or make a home. They might also seek shelter under sheds and porches or curl up in drain pipes or abandoned animal holes.

To make your property unattractive to skunks, remove backyard clutter. Clean up brush and wood piles, and fill in holes under sheds and other structures. Repair any damage to structures on your property, and fill in burrows and holes. Lining the area under sheds and porches with mesh or chicken wire makes it harder for skunks to dig.

Skunks also make their homes under bushes, so keeping them trimmed on the bottom means no hiding spots. A clean, well-lit property will keep these pests away.

Skunk Repellents and Traps

Skunks can't always take a hint. You can lock up your chickens and fence in your tomatoes, but that doesn't always remove the problem. Some people use skunk repellents to keep them away. One popular repellent that isn't very pleasant but can be very effective is urine from a predator, such as a fox. When skunks smell the urine, they assume the predator is close by and avoid the area. Making a pepper spray out of cayenne pepper and water or using a hot pepper spray can also deter skunks.

You can find skunk repellents at home improvement and garden centers or order them online.

Before investing in a skunk trap, familiarize yourself with your area's trapping laws. It might be against the law to catch wildlife or there may be specific guidelines for release. It could even be harmful to a skunk if it's released in the wrong area. You can find wildlife traps in a hardware or home improvement store. If you're unsure of the type of trap to use, a professional there can make recommendations.

If the skunk problem doesn't go away, call a licensed wildlife removal professional. Trained professionals know how to handle skunks in a humane manner and understand the local catch-and-release laws. Wildlife professionals can also walk your property and make recommendations to keep skunks from returning.

Once the skunk problem is gone, routine preventative maintenance will help to ensure the problem doesn't come back.