Pettably furry and comically slow-footed, skunks are among the most feared creatures in the animal kingdom; even bears give them a wide berth. In fact, their only true predators are owls, which are active at night, have no sense of smell and can swoop down from above and avoid the striped critter's acrid spray. If a skunk living under your house were to spray a dog or -- worse -- you, who might be trying to roust it out, the results would be unsavory and long-lasting. Although animal control pros advise that the best way to control skunks is to trap them, a combination of deterrence and exclusion is safer for you and the skunk.
Close the Food Store
It isn't difficult to tell if skunks are on your property -- their potent defense gives them an air of nonchalance, and you may cross paths with one at night as it forages. It's looking for tasty garbage morsels, your garden vegetables and virtually any food you give your pets, so the first the first step in control is to eliminate these enticements.
- Keep garbage indoors or in sealed containers in the garage or in a storage bin with a tight-fitting lid.
- Feed your pets indoors, and keep the dishes away from pet doors or other openings through which a skunk might enter.
- Surround your garden with a wire-mesh fence. Skunks aren't good climbers, so the fence doesn't have to be high, but you need to bury it about a foot in the ground to prevent the skunk from burrowing under it.
An Exclusion Strategy
More than one skunk may reside under your house -- in fact, there may be a whole family -- and you can be sure they will come out at night to eat. Finding the access points makes it easier to exclude them once they're out, especially if you make the environment under the house a little less hospitable, but not in an aggressive way that may result in your having to replace your flooring.
Spread a layer of flour around the perimeter of your house or at the most likely access points. Pick a dry day and do it during the day. Check back the next morning -- telltale footprints will lead you to the access points.
Seal the rest of the foundation with a wire mesh barrier that extends into the ground and about 12 inches above it, but leave one access open. If a mother skunk is nurturing babies, you don't want to separate them.
Create as much light as you can under the house by deploying work lights and turning them on all day. Skunks are nocturnal creatures that need darkness -- bringing in the light will probably entice them to look for a new three-star hotel. The sound of a radio -- if it's not too bothersome for people in the house -- may help.
Spread new flour at the access point every day and check for footprints in the morning. If you don't see footprints for three days, you can reasonably assume the skunks are gone and that it's safe to cover the access.
Skunk repellents, such as ammonia, mothballs, predator urine and Tabasco, are ineffective, according to multiple animal control experts. The best way to deter skunks is to remove attractants, which include any firewood stacked near the foundation that affords the creatures a hiding place. You can also scare skunks away from your house by deploying sprinklers that are controlled with a motion sensor.
About Live Traps
It is possible to trap a skunk in a large live trap and relocate it to a more suitable environment, but before you do this yourself, consider the logistics of transporting a cage with a live, frightened skunk in it. If the animal is able to raise its tail, you may not be welcome in anyone's house for weeks. In addition, your state may have laws against relocating wild animals. Live trapping is best left to professionals.