Skunks are burrowing animals that are mainly found on the underside of rock and wood piles and the dens of other animals. However, no matter how hard we try to fence ourselves off, they can sometimes burrow in residential areas where they will gladly use sheds, garages, and decks in urban areas too.
If you find evidence of a skunk infestation in your yard, you will most likely want to evict them as soon as possible since they can potentially be dangerous animals. That’s why in this article, I’ll be explaining all about skunk dens, how and where they establish, and how to get rid of them.
Skunk Burrows in the Wild
Skunks live in various habitats from woodlands and arid areas to manmade, residential areas. They’re equipped with long claws, large feet (in comparison to the rest of the body), and strong leg muscles.
These distinguishing features allow them to dig deep into the earth if they choose. However, they are likely to avoid digging if they can find a large enough crevice to keep them safe, warm, and dry.
Aside from digging or using opportunistic safe spaces, skunks are also known for invading the dens of other animals. They’re fierce fighters and animals such as squirrels, foxes, and coyotes will avoid retaliation, making it easy for them to take over premade dens. They are even known to make their own extension renovations if the space is too small.
Spending most of the day in these dens and usually living alone, skunks are mostly nocturnal and crepuscular animals which means they can be active throughout dusk and dawn.
However, during particularly cold winters or when they are breeding it is common to find several skunks in a single den to help them to stay warm. And, although they don’t hibernate, they do enter a state known as torpor meaning they will only leave the den when they need food or if they’re in danger.
In contrast, when there is no need to conserve heat, skunks prefer sleeping above the ground during the summer – usually in tall grass, under shrubs, and on decks.
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What Does a Skunk’s Den Look Like
Skunk dens are easy to recognize, mainly because they smell terrible. If skunks have infested your shed or garage, or have taken up residence below your patio or porch, you won’t be able to ignore the smell.
The area of activity of a skunk is between 2 and 20 square kilometers, with the den in the center. Inside the den will be evidence of their hair and outside will likely have traces of skunk scat. In addition, there will almost certainly be the remains of dead animals since they are unable to digest bones.
Underground Skunk Burrows
A skunk’s den isn’t as advanced as the dens of other burrowing animals such as groundhogs. They usually have just a single entrance and exit point which is no bigger than 8 inches in diameter.
On the inside, it’s expanded as much as they need for it to be comfortable. It can be as small as 2 square feet, but if more skunks live in the same burrow, they’ll expand it to accommodate.
Just like a den, a skunk burrow smells terrible, and it’s often surrounded by skunk droppings.
Where Do Skunks Dig Holes in Yards and Gardens
If they have to burrow into the ground, they’ll usually do it under a rock pile or a tree to provide some cover for the hole. However, a skunk won’t burrow if it can establish a den in your shed, garage, or underneath your deck.
The main reason skunks set up a home in your yard is because of the availability of food either from a loose-lidded trash can or pet food remains. If this becomes scarce you may begin to see evidence of 3-4 inch cone-shaped holes in beds, borders, and lawns where they have begun foraging for insects, bugs, and beetles.
Skunk Burrows Under Sheds and Outbuildings
The underside of a shed is an enticing prospect to skunks during winter as they provide a little warmth, shelter from the elements, and also protection against other animals.
An even better prospect – and one that allows them to conserve energy because it doesn’t involve digging – is a crevice or hole that can be used as an access point to get inside the shed.
They’ll do the same with your garages or outbuildings. Either finding away inside through a gap or hole or alternatively burrowing beneath it.
Do Skunks Burrow Under Decks
The underside of a deck can make a great place for a skunk to build a den and they won’t hesitate in doing so even if there are the smallest of gaps in which to climb through.
These small spaces that are generally located near our homes bring the same benefits as burrowing underneath sheds and outbuildings: They are secluded from potential predators, and they can offer more warmth than a woodland den during the wintertime.
Unless your deck is securely boarded up at the base and structurally sound, there is a chance that a female skunk and her litter may take up residence, particularly during the winter breeding season. This will not only stink the place up but also deteriorate the wooded deck further.
Evicting the protective mother and her litter may also prove problematic as she is likely to feel threatened, either inciting an attack or releasing her spray in your direction.
Why Do Skunks Burrow Under Fences
The primary reason skunks dig under a fence is to access food. So if they can smell a compost heap, grill racks from your BBQ, trash, or pet food, they will make every attempt to get to it – even if it’s on the other side of a fence.
They are not great climbers, so their natural instinct is to dig beneath it. If you are thinking of installing a fence or reinforcing your existing fence because there are skunks in your area, I recommend digging the fence at least a foot underneath the ground.
Do Skunks Burrow Under Houses
Burrowing under a house would prove to be a challenge for a skunk thanks to the concrete foundations.
A skunk would have to invest a lot of time and energy to burrow itself under a house since it’s so deep. This simply isn’t worth the effort unless there’s a hole in the foundation that would make it easy for them to gain access.
Instead, a skunk’s preference is to burrow under a garage, a deck, or a shed where the foundations are often made from wood.
How to Get Rid of a Skunk Den in Your Yard
The tell-tale signs of a skunk infestation may be easy to spot from the smell to their digging holes and poop remains, but the more difficult part is getting rid of them. Skunks are not only carriers of disease and viruses, they are also likely to retaliate if they feel threatened.
If you are a novice when it comes to skunk removal I recommend that you contact your local Animal Control Service before doing anything. They’ll instruct you on what’s the best way to go about dealing with skunks or they’ll take care of the skunks in your yard on your behalf.
If you do prefer to take matters into your own hands, here are my recommendations on the most effective methods of skunk removal and control.
Flushing and Smoking Them Out
Flooding a skunk den is a highly effective method of getting rid of an infestation unless it is located near to your home such as underneath your deck, patio, or in the house foundations.
If you have located a skunk burrow in your yard, or in a garage or outbuilding, simply pouring a bucket of water or running a hose pipe into the den itself will flush them out. What’s more, skunks are highly unlikely to return to a flooded den. Plus, the water will soak away into the soil and dry up over time.
Similarly, it is possible to buy ‘smoke bombs’ for pest control that will have much the same effect: The skunk will sense danger and leave the den quickly and is unlikely to return to the same location.
These so-called ‘smoke bombs’ are simple devices that release enough smoke (without creating a fire) to smoke out any animal. This is something that you can use underneath the deck or in a foundation hole. Just make sure to close your windows so the smoke doesn’t get inside your house.
Just be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before using them and don’t attempt to make your own version.
Trapping a skunk is another effective way of getting rid of an infestation provided you have checked out the legality of trapping and releasing skunks in your area. This is an illegal activity in some States so it’s worth taking advice from your local authority or pest control expert before you begin.
There are two basic types of traps – a door trap and a body grip trap. The latter kills the skunk instantly, while the former is a non-lethal method of trapping the animal.
Traps can be costly to buy and do require an investment of your time when it comes to locating the best place to set the trap, re-stocking with bait, and checking back daily on progress.
After the skunk is caught, you can let Animal Control take over. Or, if legal, you can release it in the wild if permitted to do so.
Preventing Skunk Infestations
The best way to ensure there are no more skunks in your yard is by following a few simple procedures.
Firstly, install your fence into the ground – not just above it. While a 4-foot-tall fence may stop them from climbing into your yard, they’ll simply dig under it instead. Alternatively, by digging a foot-deep ditch and sinking the fence into it, skunks will be much less inclined to get whatever is on the other side of the fence.
You should also make good any damaged or broken sections of your shed, patio, decking, garages, and outbuildings. Replace or patch up any eroded wood to prevent skunks from having an access point beneath these structures.
Alternatively, use a strong metal mesh that can be sunk into the ground and used to cover wooden deck boards. Skunks simply won’t be able to break through it and you can rest assured they won’t establish a den.
Lastly, make sure there’s no food that may be enticing to skunks in your yard – keep your trash cans closed with airtight lids, store pet food safely, and throw away all rotting fruit.
FAQ Do Skunks Burrow
How Deep is a Skunk Burrow?
There’s no set rule on the size and depth of a skunk burrow. It can be a small, shallow burrow (for one skunk), or a deep, larger space to accommodate a nest.
Where Do Skunks Dig Burrows Final Thoughts
In the wild, skunks dig burrows under rocks, logs, and wood piles. They’ll often invade the burrows of other animals and make them their own. In residential areas, however, they dig burrows underneath sheds, garages, and decks.
They’ll also invade crawl spaces and holes in the foundations of homes, garages, and outbuildings. To keep them out of your yard, you have to keep it clean – if there’s no food and denning sites for them, skunks won’t be interested in your yard.
The University of Colorado – Quick Facts About Skunks