Skunks

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Identification

  • Colour Black and white
  • Size From 50 cm to 80 cm
  • Description Stout, small animals with stumpy legs. They have small heads, short, pointed snouts, and small black eyes. Their most distinctive feature is the white stripes that run along their backs and extend to the tips of their long, fluffy tails.

General Facts

Skunks are distinctly smelly creatures common throughout much of Canada. They have adapted to living in close proximity to humans and take advantage of trash cans, backyard gardens, outdoor pet food, and compost piles as sources of sustenance. When faced with threats, the pests rely on their powerful stink spray to ward off would-be attackers and predators.

Appearance

Striped skunks are stout little animals with stumpy legs. They have small heads, short, pointed snouts, and little black eyes. Their most distinctive feature is the white stripes that run along their backs and extend to the tips of their long, fluffy tails. Skunks usually grow between 50 and 80 cm in length and weigh just over 3 kg.

Spotted Skunks

While most people are all too familiar with striped skunks, the smaller and scarcer spotted skunk is less well known. Sometimes called polecats or civet cats, these pests are members of the weasel family. They share striped skunks’ familiar fluffy tails, black or brown colouring, and pure white markings, though their patterns look more like dots or streaks. This pest is also more likely to be seen around woodlands and forests, as they are less comfortable near people.

Spotted skunks are skilled at burrowing, tunneling up to a foot underground to make their dens. As these pests frequently choose to burrow underneath porches, decks, and sheds, they can weaken foundations. Spotted skunks will defend themselves and their young by spraying foul-smelling, sticky liquid. Even more pungent than striped skunks, these pests’ odours can linger in yards for up to four months.

Spotted Skunk Removal & Prevention

To prevent these pests from denning under houses and sheds, screen any open areas with hardware cloth or metal flashing. Trapping is an option as well, though removing a single skunk fails to fix the problems that attracted it to the property in the first place. Since the pests often enter yards to dig for grubs or feed on garden plants, homeowners can treat their lawns for insect infestations, keep healthy lawns and fence in gardens to deny them access. Ultimately, the best way to achieve quick and safe spotted skunk removal is to call the wildlife professionals at Orkin Canada.

Skunk Tracks

In basic shape and appearance, skunk tracks most closely resemble bear tracks, except they are much smaller. Like bears, skunks have a flat-footed walk, so the entire print makes an impression on the ground. This makes skunk track identification somewhat easier than picking out the prints of other, similar-sized animals. Skunk prints show five toes on all four feet. The long claws for digging on their front paws appear in tracks as small points in front of the toes. Large, rectangular heel pads on their back feet also have a second, smaller pad behind them that may appear as a single dot.

Although skunks do not hibernate in the winter, they are far less active and may stay in their dens for several weeks at a time. For this reason, seeing skunk tracks in the snow is a rare occurrence. They are sometimes confused with squirrel tracks, though squirrels only have four toes on their front feet. Muddy ground or fresh dirt disturbed by skunks as they dig for insects is the most likely to display their prints.

Habitat

Distributed throughout the provinces, skunks are found as far north as the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. They live in farm fields, grasslands, forests, and urban areas. Although skunks are proficient diggers, they prefer to utilize the abandoned burrows of other animals instead of creating their own. In winter, skunks are very inactive and spend most of their time curled up inside their burrows until the arrival of spring.

Skunks in the City

Skunks are burrowing animals that, despite being timid, adapt surprisingly well to living among humans in urban areas. They are not skilled climbers, so homeowners don’t need to fear them getting into attics and chimneys. However, they will make dens under porches, decks, and sheds by digging as deep as a foot down. Canada is home to two species of skunks, the most familiar being the striped skunk found across the country. The other is the spotted skunk, which is found in the southern lower mainland of British Columbia. Other than the spotted skunk being slightly smaller and having a striped, more erratic pattern, the two species are very similar.

Daytime & Nighttime Behaviour

The nocturnal nature of skunks keep them mostly out of sight during daylight. Once they’ve settled on a property, the bulk of skunk damage comes from their digging up lawns in search of grubs and worms to eat. As opportunistic omnivores, they are also attracted to birdseed, pet food and garbage. It’s common for residents to smell skunk dens before ever seeing evidence of the animals. Signs to look for include holes 10 cm to 25 cm in diameter under buildings, decks, or wood piles.

Answering the question, “Where do skunks live?” is important for avoiding the dangers they pose. Skunks are known for spraying foul-smelling liquid as well as being capable of transmitting certain diseases. Due to this, it’s best for homeowners to trust the wildlife removal specialists at Orkin Canada to handle problem skunks.

Skunk Dens

While they prefer to use the abandoned holes of other burrowing pests, skunks may also opt to make their dens under decks, porches, and sheds. Skunk dens are used by adults when they give birth to young in the spring and also to avoid cold weather in the winter. Typically solitary pests, skunks can be drawn together during colder weather in these makeshift homes, sometimes with as many as 20 individuals living together. At times, these pests may even use rock heaps, wood piles, and crawl spaces under homes.

Skunk Den Removal

Skunks are notorious diggers and will make holes in lawns in search of grubs and other food. In order to keep skunks away from homes, certain exclusion methods should be used. If you find an excavated area that you think might be a preferred skunk denning site, you can fill in some of the hole with loose dirt. If, over the next few days, the dirt is gone and the hole reopened, skunks are most likely the culprit. Fencing or sealing the area completely should keep them out.

If a skunk den is being used for young skunks, it is imperative to allow the babies to escape before permanently blocking the area. To ensure proper and humane removal, contact a trained wildlife specialist. Aside from their noxious spray, skunks are known carriers of rabies and numerous parasites that can spread other diseases. While they are typically not aggressive, it is not safe to allow these pests to remain on your property. Call Orkin Canada to take care of any skunk dens in your yard.

Diet

As opportunistic omnivores, skunks eat almost anything. In the wild, their diets include rodents, eggs, insects, worms, and plants. City-dwelling skunks help themselves to trash, fruits and vegetables from home gardens, grubs found in residential lawns, and small animals like mice and squirrels.

Life Cycle

Mating occurs in the early spring, and mother skunks give birth to litters ranging in size from two to six kittens. Young skunks are capable of spraying their defensive stench at little more than one week old and are completely weaned from their mothers after a couple months. Striped skunks can live up to three years in the wild.

Newborn and Young Skunks

Skunks are usually born in the spring, typically in underground or sheltered dens, where mothers have established a nesting site. Litters include four to eight young, which are born blind and deaf. Baby skunks stay with their mothers until fall, at which point they are fully developed and able to survive on their own.

The presence of baby skunks creates unwanted, potentially hazardous issues in yards and near homes. For example, mothers are extremely protective of their offspring and are likely to spray people that approach or corner their babies. Contact Orkin Canada’s team of pest specialists for humane baby skunk prevention and removal.

Problems Caused by Skunks

The main problem with skunks is their horrid stench. Their oily musk is so potent that it can cause skin irritation and blindness, and skunk spray is notoriously hard to get rid of, remaining potent for several days. Aside from their smell, skunks can damage personal property by eating garden fruits and vegetables, scattering trash everywhere, and digging up lawns in search of worms. The pests have also been known to carry the rabies virus.

Skunk Holes

Skunks dig holes in yards for two main reasons. Most often, the animals have been digging for grubs or worms to eat. As they claw at the earth with their front feet, they push their long, slender snouts into the dirt to smell for and suck up any food. This creates a distinctive oval-shaped hole that looks partially dug and partially torn. This tearing of the sod creates unsightly damage to lawns and can be a tripping hazard.

Skunks also dig along building foundations as well as under porches and decks to create dens for sleeping during the day or sheltering over the winter. These skunk holes can be up to a foot deep, but are less likely to cause trips and falls because they are not typically in the middle of yards. Burrows found on residential properties most likely belong to striped skunks, as the spotted skunk is less tolerant of human activity.

Signs of Infestation

Catching a whiff of the animal’s foul odour is a sure way to tell skunks are nearby. Residents might also find piles of dirt pushed out from underneath the foundations of their houses, porches, decks, or sheds, which indicates the presence of a skunk burrow. The pests leave distinct conical holes in the ground when they dig for insects and grubs, as well.

Skunk Smell

Few things are more nauseating than a skunk smell in your house. While a rancid smell in the house is typically just the result of the pests passing by outside, they do sometimes nest in and around homes. Their dens can be found under decks, porches and in concealed places around buildings, but be sure to check these places carefully in order to avoid a surprise spray. Homeowners should also look in places where a food attractant is accessible. For instance, a garage left open with exposed trash or pet foods is a likely attraction.

Besides the unwelcomed odour they produce, skunks can carry and transmit diseases like leptospirosis, rabies, and tularemia. If a skunk infestation is suspected, it’s generally recommended to not disturb them. Instead, contact the wildlife experts at Orkin Canada to remove any problem skunks.

Skunk Spray

Though skunks are extremely timid, they’re among the most feared yard pests because of their ability to spray a deep, long-lasting odour from far away. They deploy their infamous skunk spray in times of stress, using it as a defense mechanism. The foul, musky stench lingers in the air for hours, and a direct hit to clothes, hair or skin can last for days.

Skunks’ scent glands are highly developed, with the capacity to discharge a yellowish, oily sulphur compound up to six times in succession. Each spray can travel four to six metres, so a person or pet doesn’t need to be very close to be sprayed.

How to Avoid Skunk Sprays

In addition to using this special skill when they feel threatened, skunks spray to protect their young. Signs a skunk is about to spray include stamping their front feet, raising their tails, hissing, and making short, forward charges. Potential victims should move away slowly and quietly if they see any of these signs. To eliminate the risk of an up-close encounter on your property, contact the wildlife removal specialists at Orkin Canada.

Skunk Sounds/Noises

While homeowners are often alerted to a skunk’s presence by the smell, these pests do make noticeable sounds. Since the pests burrow under homes and sheds and scavenge for food in garages, residents can hear a variety of skunk sounds that can indicate an infestation. These range from vocalizations to scratching and stomping.

Types of Skunk Noises

Though they’re typically quiet animals, skunks use sounds to communicate. If angry, they may squeal, growl, coo, or hiss. Pregnant or lactating females are known to be aggressive toward males, vocalizing and stamping their front feet. Homeowners that hear loud pouncing or hissing may have a pregnant skunk living under their porch. Skunk sounds also include tapping, tearing, and scratching that are created by their long, straight and strong claws. As these pests are most active at night, residents will mostly hear these noises after dark.

Since they are nocturnal and their burrows are sometimes located so close to homes, skunk sounds can disturb homeowners in the middle of the night. Due to the health risks and damages associated with skunk infestations, it’s best to contact the wildlife experts at Orkin Canada for the safe and humane removal as soon as homeowners hear skunk noises.

Skunk Under the Shed or Deck

With abundant food, plenty of shelter, and few natural predators, urban and suburban areas make ideal habitats for skunks. Although they are best known for their foul-smelling spray, these pests may also cause issues when they live around homes.

Skunks are roughly the size of house cats and can squeeze into many of the same places, such as under sheds, decks, and porches. However, as they are also skilled burrowers, the pests may expand these spaces, piling up dirt and even undermining foundations. A lingering, musky smell is one of the best signs that skunks may be living under your shed or deck.

Removal Tips

During warmer months, skunks are nomadic and move to new burrows fairly frequently on their own. They search for long-term dens to raise young and keep warm as soon as cold weather appears. Homeowners who try to remove a skunk under the deck or shed during these months may separate mothers from their young, which leads to additional issues. An abandoned baby skunk usually dies without care, leaving unpleasant-smelling carcasses that attract insects and other pests.

To prevent skunks from taking shelter around homes, close open areas under porches, decks, and sheds using hardware cloth or metal sheeting. If skunks have already moved in, call the wildlife control experts at Orkin Canada for efficient and humane removal.

Prevention

Keeping trash cans secure is one of the biggest ways to prevent unwanted skunks from infesting yards. Residents should also take steps to remove other potential food sources such as outdoor pet food and bird feeders. Skunks are not good climbers, so sturdy fences buried several centimetres into the ground help keep skunks away from gardens. Finally, securing gaps in the undersides of decks and porches with mesh wiring can prevent skunks from burrowing under the house.

Trapping/Control/Removal

Due to the potentially dangerous nature of the animals, inexperienced homeowners should never attempt to trap or remove wild skunks on their own. Contact the wildlife control professionals at Orkin Canada to have experts handle the situation. Our teams of wildlife specialists will remove nuisance skunks in the most effective and humane ways possible, protecting homes and personal property from any further damage.

 

Why do I have skunks?

In the wild, skunks live in farm fields, grasslands, forests. They are proficient diggers, but they prefer to use the abandoned burrows of other animals instead of creating their own.

In urban settings, they have adapted to living near humans and raid trash cans, gardens, outdoor pet food, and compost piles for food.

Skunks eat almost anything. In the wild, their diets include rodents, eggs, insects, worms, and plants. City-dwelling skunks feed on trash, fruits and vegetables from home gardens, grubs found in residential lawns, and small animals like mice and squirrels.

How worried should I be about skunks?

When threatened or surprised, skunks release a foul smelling spray so powerful it can cause skin irritation and blindness. The oily musk is notoriously hard to remove and the stench of the spray is potent for several days.

Skunks can also eat garden fruit and vegetables, scatter trash everywhere, dig up lawns in search of worms, and transmit the rabies virus. To have a skunk removed from your property safely and humanely, you need a professional pest control service.

How can I prevent skunks invading?

Look out for conical holes in the soil, Check for piles of dirt pushed out, Keep all trash cans secure, Remove bird feeders and pet food, Install fences buried into the ground, Secure gaps under decks and porches

Can a baby skunk spray?

While it can take several weeks for newborns to be active, their ability to spray foul-smelling liquid develops within their first few weeks of life. Still, skunks only spray other animals and people when they sense threats. Since newborn skunks rarely leave their dens before they are weaned from their mothers, encounters with the young pests are infrequent.

Do skunks climb?

Despite its curious nature, the striped skunk isn’t very good at climbing. Therefore, unlike squirrels and raccoons, they cannot easily infiltrate attics and chimneys. Instead, their stocky bodies are built for digging and catching bugs with tails that are ill equipped for balancing and climbing. Short, strong legs and tough claws help striped skunks scrape though dirt in search of food like grubs, earthworms, and insects. These burrowing animals inhabit clearings, pastures, fields, and other areas where the ability to climb isn’t particularly useful.

Spotted skunks, on the other hand, are smaller, lighter, and more agile than their striped cousins. Their claws have adapted to provide enhanced climbing abilities, which make them more likely to den in attics and chimneys. Spotted skunks climb up trees to eat honey from beehives and scurry up straw bales in search of rodents. Homeowners often despise their presence, as these climbing skunks can get into garbage cans just as easily as raccoons or squirrels.

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