Skunks

About Skunks

striped skunk
  • Skunks feed heavily on insects and rodents such as mice.
  • Skunks don’t truly hibernate but will become inactive in the coldest months of winter. Though not usually social, skunks will den with other skunks in order to share body warmth.
  • Normally skunks are not aggressive and will let you know that they feel threatened and may spray by:
    • Stamping their front feet
    • Growling
    • Raising their tails
    • Hissing

Respond to this threat by quietly and slowly backing away and making no sudden or aggressive movements as you do.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can skunks be a nuisance to people?

  • Skunk spray can cause watering eyes, nasal irritation and nausea. Skunk spray has been known to blind people for up to 15 minutes.
  • The lingering odours that skunk spray can leave on clothes will eventually fade if you wash them and air them out.
  • Call your nearest vet for advice on ridding your dog or cat of skunk smell.

Can skunks carry rabies?

  • Skunks can carry rabies, although there are very few rabid skunks in Alberta.
  • Any skunk that is active in the daytime, unusually aggressive or approaches people and other animals without fear should be avoided.
  • In the later stages of rabies infections, skunks may wander, be listless and docile, and have head or body tremors.
  • If you see such behaviour in a skunk, bring in children and pets then notify the nearest Fish and Wildlife office or municipal animal control organization.
  • Keep your pet’s rabies vaccinations up to date, especially if it’s allowed to roam.

What can I do about the skunks on my property?

  • Removing individual skunks will only create a vacancy for another animal to fill. To prevent wildlife from visiting your property, you must remove the food or shelter the animals are seeking.
  • Removing shelter:
    • Clear out brush piles, stacked lumber and debris piles that skunks can use as cover.
    • Look around your property for spaces underneath sheds, porches, decks and crawlspaces. These spaces should be closed off with a ½ inch hardware cloth. Make sure there are no skunks inside when you close off the space.
    • Skunks that have already taken up residence under a building or other location on your property can be deterred by putting mothballs in these spaces. Skunks are repulsed by the smell of mothballs.
  • Removing food:
    • Apply insecticide to rid your lawn of insects. Skunks that dig holes in lawns are doing so to unearth the grubs and larvae that they prefer to feed on.
    • Store your garbage and recycling in containers that have tight-fitting lids. Replace garbage cans that are in poor repair.
    • Feed your pets indoors, or remove their dishes immediately after feeding and store the pet food inside.
    • Honey producers can stop skunks from raiding beehives by installing and maintaining an electric fence perimeter around the apiary. Also place beehives on stands one metre (3 feet) off the ground.
  • Skunks are not deft climbers and, if they fall into window wells or other holes on your property, may need assistance in getting out. To do this, lay a 2 x 6 or other wide plank into the window well or hole and wait for the skunk to climb out.
  • If a skunk has found its way into your house or garage, leave the door open and allow the skunk to depart on its own time. Don’t prod or agitate the skunk.

Contact

Call a Fish and Wildlife officer if you need specific advice on skunk problems on your property, or to discuss removal techniques.

To find contact information for a Fish and Wildlife office near you, see:

Related Information

For more information on the species in Alberta:

The Agriculture and Rural Development website offers information for agricultural producers to help manage conflicts with skunks. See:

To download in-depth information about skunk control from The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, published by the University of Nebraska, see:

 

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Updated: Feb 20, 2014