We recently had a consultation call with a man in Corte Madera. He was having an ongoing problem with skunks in the garden. After the call, we followed up with an email. Following is the email.
Subject: RE: Corte Madera Skunk Problem
Thanks so much for your call this afternoon and for your willingness to find out how to humanely deter the skunks from your yard. It sounds like a perfect habitat and that you like it that way so you may not ever be 100% successful in keeping them out of the yard entirely but there are things you can do to discourage them from spending so much time there.
One of the first things you want to do is to take a look around the house and yard to determine what might be attracting them. Wild animals are always looking for food, water and shelter. They have certainly found food in your yard and possibly shelter. A few questions to keep in mind as you’re looking around, in terms of food: are animals getting into your garbage cans, do you have an open air compost pile, are you feeding domestic animals outdoors, do you have a bird feeder, is there a source of fresh water nearby? Then, thinking about easy den sites, do you have wood, rock or lumber piles, an elevated shed or deck, openings under concrete slabs or porches, access to crawl spaces under the house? Any of these would be attractants.
Freshly planted or laid lawns are hot spots for both raccoons and skunks, especially sod. Raccoons will roll up the sod and pull up patches while skunks will leave cone shaped holes from sticking their snout into the ground. Both animals are looking for grubs and will push, dig or roll grass when wet soil conditions push grubs to the surface. When the soil dries out a bit, the grubs move deeper so the problem of skunks digging can generally be remedied by cutting back on the watering of the lawn. Since you have noticed quite a few holes, it seems likely that you have a family of skunks around and it also seems certain that grubs are coming closer to the surface of the lawn, making them easily accessible to the skunks.
In addition to cutting back on the watering, try placing ammonia stations around the yard as we discussed on the phone. We suggest using pie tins filled with a cup or two of ammonia, then place a rag or a chunk of an old t-shirt to help wick out the smell. For maximum effectiveness, place several around the yard, five or so feet apart. Check the level of ammonia every day and replenish as needed. An important reminder, never place an ammonia station in an enclosed space, the strong odor can be fatal to animals.
Not every deterrent works for every animal, sometimes a combination of tactics can be effective, especially if there are several animals coming around and they have not previously been deterred. You can also purchase pellets of synthetic fox urine–Shake Away seems to be popular and is available in garden and hardware stores. If you suspect the skunks are denning on the property, we have heard that radios tuned to a talk radio station and placed near the point of entry can be effective and shine lights into the den at all hours. Be careful about fire hazards though, caged lights might be the most safe. Once you’ve done what you can to reduce attractants and set out deterrents, give it a couple of days. As a general wildlife deterrent, there is a motion activated sprinkler called a Scarecrow that seems to be pretty effective, it’s available online. Skunks do not like being surprised.
Another important thing to mention is that there are quite a few baby animals out there right now, including skunks. I have attached a pdf on skunk age progression in case you’re seeing little ones in the yard, the photos should help you identify the age range. If you are seeing young ones, they typically move on when the family group separates in Fall. However, if the attractants remain, there is a possibility that one or more might stick around.
If you think the skunks or any other wild animals are living under structures on your property and the deterrent techniques haven’t worked, WildCare has a fee-based service, WildCare Solutions that can help. We have trained Wildlife Specialists who would come to your home, do an inspection of the perimeter of the house, looking for any signs of penetration or points of entry and identifying attractants. We can humanely evict the animals and we do not trap unless we find an injured animal. Our methods are truly humane and in line with the goals of our wildlife rehabilitation hospital.
If none of the deterrents I’ve mentioned here have worked after a few days, give us a call and we can escalate to Plan B. Thanks again!
Wildlife Solutions Manager
76 Albert Park Lane
San Rafael, CA 94901
Not sure how old the skunks in your yard are? Click to download our Skunk Age Progression Photos PDF document.