Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Living with Skunks

Living with Skunks

striped skunkSkunks are found all over Ontario, in forests and towns and cities.  This highly adaptable animal is very common in many cities.

Skunks discharge a bad smelling fluid to defend themselves from threats.

A skunk is not an aggressive animal and will always try to retreat from a human. An angry skunk will growl or hiss, stamp its front feet rapidly, or even walk a short distance on its front feet with its tail high in the air.  Before spraying, it usually humps its back and turns in a U-shaped position so that both the head and tail face the enemy.

Skunks eat a wide variety of foods: insects, mice, shrews, squirrels, young rabbits, birds' eggs, and various plants. During the autumn and winter they eat about equal amounts of plant and animal foods, but eat mainly insects in the summer.

The scent of the skunk is an effective defence against most natural enemies. Nevertheless, it is preyed upon by many large birds.

Conflicts happen

In urban areas, skunks may spray pets or people that startle them.

Skunks can cause damage to lawns and gardens.  They may make homes inside buildings or under porches.

Please keep in mind…

Wild animals have the same basic needs as humans – food, water and shelter. Sometimes, humans and wild creatures come into conflict when animals are trying to meet their basic needs. Often, conflicts can be prevented if we're willing to make small changes to how we think and act.

People and wild animals live side by side in Ontario. We all share responsibility for preventing and handling human-wildlife conflicts. If you must take action against wildlife, please consider all your options and follow all relevant laws and regulations.


Conflicts with Skunks

How Can I Prevent Conflicts?

Limit food sources
  • Never feed skunks.
  • Feed pets inside and lock pet doors at night.
  • To prevent skunks from digging up lawns for grubs, apply natural remedies from garden stores (microscopic worms called "nematodes" can be effective in killing grubs) or lay down one-inch mesh chicken wire.
  • Store garbage indoors until collection day.
  • Keep compost in containers that keep skunks out while allowing for ventilation.

Make your property unwelcoming
  • Block off potential access points to your garage and other buildings.
  • Secure the perimeter of decks, sheds and crawl spaces.
  • Complete home repairs in the autumn, so mother and young won't be trapped inside.
  • Use flashing lights, motion sensors and noise makers to deter skunks.
  • You may choose to let skunks occupy an area, such as under a deck, if they don't pose a problem. If you'd like to remove the animals, a wildlife control company can be hired.
  • If a skunk gets into your house, stay calm. Close all but one outside door, and let the animal find its own way out.

How Can I Handle a Conflict?

If you encounter a skunk
  • If a person or pet is sprayed, the faster you clean up, the more completely you can remove the odour.
  • If eyes get irritated, flush them liberally with cold water.  Next, wash with mildly acidic substances such as carbolic soap, tomato juice, diluted vinegar, or the following home remedy: One litre of three per cent hydrogen peroxide solution 80 millilitres of baking soda and 5 millilitres of liquid soap.
  • Always mix the solution in a large, open container. Use the entire mixture while it is still bubbling. Wearing rubber gloves, apply the solution, work it into lather, and leave it on for 30 minutes.
  • After washing, follow with a long hot shower. You may have to repeat the process two or three times.
  • When washing a dog, wash the body first and then the head to keep the dog from shaking off the mixture.
  
Lethal action is a last resort
  • Landowners may humanely kill or trap skunks that are damaging or about to damage their property. Firearm regulations and bylaws must be followed.
  • You may also hire an agent to act on your behalf. 

 
For more information and assistance…
To locate a local wildlife control agent…
• Speak with your neighbours, family, and friends.
• Look for "animal control" in your phone book or online.

To locate a licensed trapper...
• contact the Ontario Fur Managers Federation at (705) 254-3338 or by e-mail atfurman@furmanagers.com

For information on skunks…
• Call your local Ministry of Natural Resources office or the Natural Resources Information Centre at 1-800-667-1940.
• Check out Hinterland Who’s Who

For information on how to prevent conflicts with skunks….
• Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PDF, 143 KB)
• City of Toronto