The Striped Skunk is a nocturnal, solitary mammalian breed commonly found in Illinois- both in rural and urban areas. They are protected as “furbearers” under the Illinois Wildlife Code (520 ILCS 5/2.2) and require an animal removal permit authorized by an IDNR District Wildlife Biologist in urban areas and/or a hunting or trapping license in rural areas.
Weather conditions, such as mild winters, can contribute to an increase in skunk population. Additionally, an absence of disease in the skunk population can affect its numbers.
Skunks are very adaptable and often make their dens along:
- Forested and Brushy Areas
- Golf Courses
- Open, Grassy Fields
- Railroads or High Tension Power Lines
They are also known to reside in:
- Dry Drainage Tiles
- Junk Piles
- Old Buildings
- Rock Piles
- Storm Sewers
- Wood Piles
Their territory typically extends 1- 1 ½ miles in diameter from their den. Skunks do not hibernate, but their range does decrease during the winter months.
What you can do
- Control the grubs and insects in your lawn. You may notice small holes dug up in your grass - those are skunks looking for grubs. Home improvement stores sell pesticides that are not harmful to animals or the environment. It comes in pellet form that you spread like you would fertilizer. If you use a landscaping service, ask them specifically to use this pesticide. Strongly encourage your neighbors to do this as well.
- Keep other food sources out of their reach. Clean up around outdoor eating and grilling areas. Close your garbage cans tightly. Fence in your vegetable gardens and pick up any fruit or acorns that might fall from trees. Limit and maintain the amount of bird feeders you have as spilled bird food is a meal for skunks.
- Identify and close up possible dens around your house. Wood piles, hollow logs, holes under door stoops, gaps below decks, sheds that do not get much use and even behind bushes can all be prime nesting spaces for wild animals. Skunks will inevitably displace other animals that have made a den for themselves. So even if you find a home of cute little bunnies living in your yard, get them out. They may be adorable, but a skunk will likely take the space over and might even kill the bunnies to boot.
- Skunks can find a way to make a home anywhere the size of a tennis ball. They are incredible diggers. Not sure if there may be a skunk living there? Spread flour around the area and look for paw prints the next morning. If you find you have gaps under your deck, close them up at night when the skunks are hunting for food. Gravel works however it might just be a temporary solution if they really like the home. Just to be safe, you should countersink boards at minimum of 6 inches below ground so that the animals cannot dig underneath it.
- Consider using a repellent:
Mothballs - Place these around any area you believe the skunk may be active. You should not put them in areas where ventilation will bring the odors into your house. If you are concerned about pets eating them, place them in old sweat socks. To use them in your garden, put them in a sealed plastic container with numerous holes punched in it. A good suggestion is to put them out behind bushes and by woodpiles even if you don't have skunks as a preventative measure.
Ammonia rags - You can also use rags soaked in common ammonia in the same fashion as mothballs. Do not pour the ammonia directly into your lawn. It will damage the lawn and will be quick to dissipate.
Cayenne pepper - Around your plants, fruit trees and garbage cans, spread cayenne pepper in copious amounts. You can usually find it very cheap at most grocery and warehouse stores. It won't permanently harm the skunks, or your dog, but it will train them that they need to go elsewhere.
Others - There are non-chemical types of repellents available like motion-controlled flood lights. Skunks do not like light, and flood lights are also effective in deterring criminal activity in your yard. Consider setting up a radio and tuning into any talk radio channel. The voices and the light will give the animals the impression someone is out there. There are also motion sensitive lawn sprinklers available from hardware stores and online.
- When you walk at night, keep a flashlight with a strobe and keys with you and at the ready. Loudly jingling keys and flashing skunks with a strobe light should scare them off before any encounter. There are also free apps out there that can turn your smartphone into a blinding strobe light. Just the same, there are apps for a siren or a hawk screeching. Hawks and owls are their number one predator aside from man. You may also wish to carry a half-full water bottle and crinkle it loudly to announce your presence.
- Don't let your dog go after skunks. They are more likely to spray another animal before a human. If your dog fails to detect one before you get close, reign him or her back in so as to not cause the skunk to overact and spray, even if it is running away from you.
- If you do get up close with one, back away slowly. Do not panic. Skunks do not want confrontation and do not want to spray you. They will spray only when they are threatened and cannot retreat in time or if they are defending their young. When they have time to warn you, they will get low to the ground, growl, stomp their paws and raise their tail. If you don’t back off, they will turn around to spray. Their spray can go up to 15 feet, so put a lot of distance between you and them.
- Residents are not permitted to trap and/or kill skunks without a license (state law 520 ILCS 5). Poisons are indiscriminate and can kill a neighbors pet. Use of any firearm or any projectile weapon (BB Gun, air soft pistol, bow & arrow…) is against the law.
- Residents are not encouraged to put out food or otherwise harbor skunks. By definition, an animal "owner" means any person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as it's custodian. State law 510 ILCS 5/2.16). Feeding or otherwise caring for skunks is prohibited under Local Ordinance Sec.4-7.
If a skunk has sprayedIf you are trying to get rid of the scent on a pet or a surface that has been sprayed, tomato juice does not work as well as you think. Instead, try mixing this:
1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 teaspoon liquid dish washing soap (Dawn)
Wear rubber gloves. Use immediately, and outdoors, if at all possible, to keep the volatile skunk spray out of your house. Rinse after five minutes and repeat if needed. Warning: Do not store this mixture! Use it immediately after mixing. If left in a closed container, the oxygen gas released could make the container burst. This mixture can bleach fur and hair color. Clothes or other fabric items sprayed directly may be best thrown away. Fabric that picked up the smell indirectly, as well as buildings and similar surfaces, can be washed with one cup of liquid laundry bleach per gallon of water (this may bleach colors).
Public Health Concerns
Call the Lake County Health Department’s Animal Control Office at 847-377-4700 or visit their website if you see skunks that exhibit signs of rabies. These symptoms include:
- Loss of fear of people
- Uncoordinated movements
Skunks help control insect and small mammal populations.
Trapping is not an effective way of dealing skunks. Removing all of the skunks from a neighborhood, village or county is an impossible task and can greatly affect the ecosystem. Removing the species will only bring in other critters from outside and cause an explosion of the insect population.