Skunks are nocturnal insects that sometimes cause problems in the urban scene, the most frequent criminals being the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) and the spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis). Everybody knows about the poisonous scent these mammals produce, but few know that skunks are carriers of rabies, canine distemper, canine hepatitis and a score of different diseases. Understanding the symptoms of a skunk in your yard is the first step to removing this potentially dangerous animal.
Skunks are famed for being smelled long before they are seen. Even if they are not spraying, everywhere that a skunk frequents may be tainted with their odor, especially den places. If you’re regularly smelling a dim skunk scent while working in your garden or yard, you may have skunks as fresh neighbors. Should you smell skunk in late winter, it may be because males in the region are fighting for the available females.
Holes in the Lawn
If you discover around, 3- to 4-inch-wide holes in the lawn, this can be a telltale sign of skunk feeding. Unlike other digging creatures like dogs or raccoons, skunk holes are normally shallow and perfectly circular. They dig just deep enough to locate grubs and other soil-dwelling insects. Skunks may occasionally dig cone-shaped holes beneath construction bases that enable them access under the structure. Search for footprints like a cat’s, but with five feet, in the loose soil of those excavations.
In lawns where grubs have broken the sod considerably, skunks may simply roll up the sod back like a rug. They prevent digging if possible, therefore loose sod is a particularly attractive choice for skunks. While it seems that peeling back sod is far better than digging in the yard, if the sod has been upturned for very long, the grass may be badly diminished and need replacement.
If neighborhood dogs suddenly begin barking at night, then it may be because skunks are afoot. Skunks are nocturnal, meaning that they hunt at night — dogs within fenced yards will happily make a huge ruckus when skunks pass nearby in their nightly rounds. Even if these skunks are not headed to your yard straight away, it’s possible that they will eventually pay you a visit.
When you don’t have any pets to accidentally cross their paths, it’s possible that skunks may occupy the empty spots under your outbuildings or deck without being discovered. If you watch closely in early summer, then you may see female skunks taking their kits along as they search for food at dusk or after dark.