In this second installment of trapping skunks (Mephitis mephitis), I wanted to write about methods for determining whether skunks were living on the property or not.
Human-conflicts with skunks fall into two categories: domiciled or transient damage. Domiciled damage exists when the skunks are living on the property, such as underneath a shed or deck. Transient damage occurs when the skunks are feeding on the property (e.g. digging grubs) but are not living there. The property is just a feeding area or a spot where they are just passing through.
Most individuals encounter skunks not by seeing them but smelling their pungent skunk essence. Though skunks don’t just automatically give off the odor like the “PePe LePew” cartoon, skunks do use their spray as a defensive mechanism. The challenge is that we can smell skunk essence at levels as low as 10 parts per billion. So sometimes people think skunks are nearby when they aren’t.
Nevertheless, when the odor is strong (obviously a relative term but you will know it when you experience it), it is highly likely skunks were nearby. Why do they spray? They spray when threatened such as when a female sprays an unwanted male suitor, or a frightened juvenile reacts upon hearing steps on the deck above it. Of course, owners also know when their dog gets sprayed.
But are the skunks living on the property (domiciled damage) or just passing through (transient damage)? The best way to determine the answer is to look at decks and sheds and other protected areas for the presence of four-inch tall half-moon divot dug underneath the wall of the deck or shed. if you don’t see the divot (assuming the wall of the shed/deck is flush with the ground) then it is likely that your problem is transient damage.
If skunks are damaging your turf, don’t assume that the problem is only transient damage. The reason is that skunks can live on the property and feed on the same property. At minimum, skunks feeding on the lawn would be transient damage but they could also be living on the property. You will need to check the property to rule out domiciled damage.
It is essential to determine whether skunks are living on the property or not because the answer to that question will determine how you will go about to control them.Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACE, is the owner of Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. He helps people restore their balance with nature through publishing, training, consulting, and the internet. He has published numerous articles in trade and academic publications (http://kingsdivinity.academia.edu/StephenMVantassel) along with several books (https://wildlifecontrolconsultant.com/store-2/). Listen to his podcast at PestGeek Podcast (https://pestgeekpodcast.com/). He is a sought after speaker and trainer. If you would like to have Stephen speak at your event or use his consultation services, send an e-mail to email@example.com. Copyright All postings are the property of Stephen M. Vantassel and Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. Text (not images) may be reprinted in non-profit publications provided that the author and website URL is included. If images wish to be used, explicit and written permission must be obtained from Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC.