Backyard decks and sheds can be highly attractive to skunks, especially for females and their babies. They offer a sheltered, cozy, and dark haven and an ample base from which they can find food and tend to their new family.
In this article, I will explain the behavior and habits of skunks, why they are attracted to outbuildings in urban areas, and what to do if you discover them on your property.
I’ll also be telling you how best to go about getting rid of them if they have taken up residence beneath your deck or shed and, sharing my top tips on how to prevent them from returning. Read on to find out more!
- Why Skunks Nest Under Decks or Sheds
- Signs of Skunk Under Your Deck
- Getting Rid of Skunk From Under Patios and Decks
- How to Trap a Skunk
- Preventing Skunks from Nesting on Your Property
- FAQs How to Get Rid of Skunk Under Decks
- Verdict: How to Get Rid of Skunk Under Decks
Why Skunks Nest Under Decks or Sheds
Skunks are attracted to outbuildings in residential areas because they provide an environment that is not dissimilar to their natural habitat:
Shelter: A ready-made shelter is not only convenient but also provides protection for babies against potential predators. Decks, sheds, and patios offer dark corners and a well-protected hiding spot, from where skunks can raise their young and keep them safe.
Nearby Food Sources: Skunks are especially attracted to backyards with rivers and wooded areas nearby. This is akin to their natural feeding habits where they forage for insects, small mammals, berries, eggs, and other vegetation.
During their winter mating season when food is scarce and temperatures cooler, the potential for nearby backyard feasting in garbage bins, composters, and bird feeders makes for easy pickings. In addition, they are known for scavenging bugs and grubs by digging up lawns and gardens in their search for food.
By the way, our site is supported by visitors like you. Some links on this page may be affiliate links which means if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support! You can find out more here.
Signs of Skunk Under Your Deck
You can be pretty certain a skunk has taken up residence in your backyard if you notice unexplained holes in your lawn, an unpleasantly strong odor, skunk tracks, or poop, especially in winter or the fall.
You may also notice drag marks from small animals that have been eaten by a skunk or piles of debris such as leaves and twigs, which may indicate a nesting site.
In addition, catching sight of an adult skunk foraging for food at night or early morning or a group of young skunks playing around the yard or garden are also good indicators that they have moved in.
Here’s a look at some of those tell-tale signs in more detail:
Time of Year
Skunks are solitary animals that only come together during mating season in late winter or early spring. During this time, the female skunk will often give birth to around five to six young. The young will stay with their mother and siblings until they reach the age of independence – usually anywhere from 6 to 16 weeks.
Skunks typically choose dens in locations that will keep them safe from predators and near food sources when raising their young. This can be beneath decks and sheds in urban areas or natural caves and hollow logs in more rural settings.
Skunks have a very distinctive odor that is caused by two chemicals, thiols and ketones. Both compounds are produced by their anal scent glands and have the aroma of pungent garlic.
The University of Iowa explains that both compounds are rich in sulfur which is also the element that makes the smell of rotten eggs so unpleasant. The sulfur atoms in thiols and ketones are highly stable causing them to bond easily with other atoms. This in turn means that the smell of skunk spray can be strong enough to linger in an area for days or even weeks.
Skunk feces is usually dark and twisted in shape. The smell can be very pungent, as it often contains the thiols and ketones that are also present in skunk spray.
Just like skunk spray the odor of skunk droppings can linger on surfaces for days or weeks depending on the severity of the skunk’s excrement.
Skunks prefer to use their dens or burrows for defecation purposes, but they are also known to poop in other areas as well. That said, skunks may also resort to pooping outside of their den if the area is too crowded or when looking for a good spot for marking territory.
Skunk droppings can contain bacteria that are dangerous for humans and pets alike so it is important to clean up as soon as you spot any poop especially if you have pets and children.
Damage in Yard
One of the main reasons skunks are considered a pest is because of the damage they can cause to both backyards and gardens.
They will dig into lawns and flower and vegetable beds in pursuit of grubs, insects, worms, and other tasty morsels. This can disturb the roots of plants which can then lead to dead or dying vegetation.
In addition, skunks will also often tear open garbage cans or bags in search of food scraps and compostable materials. This can lead to litter scattered around the yard.
Skunk tracks are relatively easy to identify due to the combination of their unique four toes on the front and hind paws.
The front tracks tend to be round or oval in shape with sharp claws easily visible at the end. The hind tracks are generally more elongated and less distinct compared to the front tracks.
Additionally, skunks have a distinctive gait that leaves an unmistakable trail that can help in identifying them.
Getting Rid of Skunk From Under Patios and Decks
There is a range of options available when it comes to evicting unwanted visitors from underneath your outbuildings. Before you select a method, it’s worth establishing if the problem is one skunk or a mother and her babies.
If there is a family and you just remove the mother, you’ll be left with a litter of orphaned baby skunks who may or may not be old enough to fend for themselves. Either way, this will leave you with more problems. Additionally, when trying to tackle the mother, chances are she will become aggressive toward you while trying to defend her litter.
Whether you are dealing with one skunk or many, it’s worth seeking professional help and checking the details of local state law when it comes to catching, killing, and releasing skunks in your area.
Here below are the details of the most commonly used methods of getting rid of skunks from your backyard.
Odors That Skunks Hate
Skunks detest strong smelling scents such as ammonia, garlic, and lemon. These odors are known to overwhelm the animal’s sense of smell and are enough to repel them from the area.
Simply place dishes filled with these odors around the perimeter of your backyard and in the local vicinity of where they are nesting in order to repel them.
Alternatively, spray the den and the area surrounding it with a solution of water and squeezed lemon juice, garlic, or ammonia.
Keep in mind that although a cheap option, these solutions evaporate quickly and can easily be washed away by the rain with time so they’re not a long-term solution. Repeat applications will be required until you can be sure that the skunks are gone for good.
Skunks are naturally timid creatures that prefer dark areas to hide in. Installing bright outdoor lighting around your landscape or shining LEDs into their den will make it harder for them to hide.
The intrusive nature of shining strong light in their direction will quickly scare them away and encourage them to make other living arrangements.
This can be a relatively inexpensive option if you already have adjustable lights set up in your yard. If not, you may consider them worth the investment if skunk infestations are common in your area.
Another investment option to consider is motion-activated devices. Once set up these emit loud noises when triggered and are a highly effective way to drive skunks and other furry pests away from your property.
These devices are activated once an animal approaches the area. The high-pitched noise they make scares them away, usually for good.
There are numerous commercial repellents available on the market that contain skunk-repelling ingredients, including mothballs, ammonia, and predator urine scents.
These vary greatly in terms of their effectiveness and cost and it’s important to read directions on how best and where to use these products to get the best results.
Just like the lemon and garlic spray and other solutions that skunks are known to despise, their potency diminishes with time and are likely to need reapplication before the skunks have vacated.
Homemade Skunk Repellents
DIY home repellents can be created by mixing strongly scented essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus, citronella, or tea tree oil with water.
These are less pungent than a garlic or ammonia solution but work in the same way. They quickly overwhelm the skunk’s senses causing them to flee when sprayed around the perimeter of your yard or in or near the skunk’s den.
Catch and Release Traps
One final option that can also be used to get rid of skunks is a trap. Traps need to be baited with food and left near den entrances and exits or other spots skunks are known to frequent on your property.
‘Catch and release’ style traps offer a humane way of removing a skunk from your property, as they don’t cause harm to the animal. Once caught, the trapped skunk can be relocated elsewhere and away from your property.
Trapping can be time-consuming, difficult to execute, and must be carried out in accordance with local laws. It’s imperative, therefore, to carefully review manufacturer instructions and seek out local restrictions before using.
There are also potential risks associated with setting traps, such as accidentally catching other animals like pets or small children who come across them.
Some people are put off using traps because of the potential risk factor involved. A trapped skunk can become agitated and will omit their spray. Skunk spray can cause vomiting, nausea, and watery eyes and has even been known to cause temporary blindness in humans.
How to Trap a Skunk
Whilst trapping skunks can be a challenging task, with the right knowledge and approach it is both achievable and an effective way to get rid of the animal from your yard.
Before leaping into action, however, it’s worth spending a little time understanding the basics. For example, you need to consider the size and type of trap to use to ensure you can safely capture the animal without causing injury.
Choosing a bait that will entice the skunk is another consideration and so too is deciding where to place the trap in an area where there is evidence of skunks passing by.
Then, once the animal has been caught, you are going to need to release it in accordance with local regulations and take safety precautions such as wearing gloves and a protective face mask when handling the trap.
The guidance below will provide you with a comprehensive and more detailed overview of these steps and will guide you through how you can successfully ensure you catch, and humanely release any skunks living on your property.
1) Choosing a Trap
There are two basic types of traps – lethal and non-lethal traps and these are most commonly used to capture small animals such as skunks and raccoons etc.
The first is a box trap (also known as a cage trap). These are used for ‘catch and release purposes and are not intended to cause harm to captured animals.
The other type of trap is known as a body grip trap. When used correctly, body grip traps will kill a captured animal instantly. This type of trap is regulated and prohibited for use on skunks in most regions.
Both traps work on a bait system. The former is a cage or box that the skunk walks into, and steps on a pad, which closes a door behind the animal, causing it to get stuck inside.
Body grip traps are similar to classic mousetraps, but they’re much more powerful. They can be difficult to set up and dangerous too if the operator is unfamiliar with their mechanism, but they function on the same principle.
The animal is attracted to the bait, it activates the trap, and the two strong jaws snap shut around the animal, usually killing it instantly.
The most effective and humane method of skunk control – other than calling in pest control – is catching the animal with a box trap and then releasing it once you have spoken with your local animal control agency.
2) Skunk Bait
When setting a trap for a skunk, the best bait to use is either canned cat or dog food, chicken, bacon, or fish. Alternatively, you can buy commercial skunk baits that do a decent job of attracting and luring skunks too.
There is a common myth that sweet-smelling foods such as marshmallows are attractive to skunks, but they just tend to attract other animals like rodents. Just be sure that any bait used is in an enclosed container so that other animals or children cannot access it.
3) Setting a Trap
Traps need to be set up in an area frequented by the skunk. The best spot is somewhere near the skunk’s den – under the deck or just next to it.
The trap needs to be set according to the manufacturer’s instructions (every trap is different and there’s no universal guide) and it is important to make sure that there are no pets outside during the trapping process. A dog or a cat could easily get hurt in a skunk trap.
4) Releasing Trapped Skunk
Always confer with Animal Control or the local hunter association before catching a skunk. They will know what to do with it, plus where it should be released.
If it is legal to release skunks in your region, the best place to do this is in a wooded area near a river or stream.
Catching a skunk in a trap is best done by a pest control expert or someone with experience, as the process can be dangerous if misjudged.
Skunks are wild animals and can become very aggressive when feeling threatened or scared. They will often display warning signals such as stomping their feet, hissing, or spraying their powerful scent before attacking.
When cornered, they may also charge or bite to try and escape the threat. As such, it is important to remain calm and avoid making any sudden movements. Having prior experience, knowledge, and the correct safety gear is also a must to avoid causing harm.
Additionally, depending on where you live, there may be laws that prohibit trapping wildlife without a proper permit. It is essential to make sure you understand these regulations so that your actions do not violate any laws.
Preventing Skunks from Nesting on Your Property
Once you have evicted a skunk or skunks from under your deck or shed, you’re going to want to prevent it from returning and this can be achieved in a few different ways.
It’s a good idea to inspect your property for any potential entry points and seal off these areas with wire mesh, fencing, or walls.
Additionally, removing food sources such as pet food, garbage cans, and bird feeders is important when deterring skunks from inhabiting an area. Pet food should be sealed and kept indoors where it can’t be detected by skunks. Garbage cans and composters should be securely sealed with tight-fitting lids.
Bird feeders should be emptied, or if you do want to continue attracting birds to your yard or garden, position feeders away from outbuildings in an area that will be unattractive to other wildlife and pests.
Lastly, setting up motion-activated lights near potential nest sites is also effective at dissuading them from frequenting those places.
FAQs How to Get Rid of Skunk Under Decks
How Do I Stop Skunks From Digging Under My Porch?
The easiest solution is fencing off the space underneath your porch with a strong metal mesh. Skunks won’t be able to bite through it and to make sure they don’t tunnel under it, plant it 1-2 feet deep into the ground.
Verdict: How to Get Rid of Skunk Under Decks
Decks provide skunks with shelter from the elements, especially during their breeding season. The prospect of them taking up residence becomes more attractive if there are food sources such as pet food, bird feeders, accessible trash cans, and compost bins to forage.
Before you seal up the exit and entry points of the skunks’ make-shift den, you need to get rid of them first – unless you want the odor of skunk to linger in your yard indefinitely.
This can be handled in a number of ways from the most humane approach of waiting until their young are old enough to leave home, to employing harassment tactics that make their living conditions untenable and force them to flee. The other option, of course, is to trap and relocate them.
All options come with advantages and shortcomings that need to be considered with care and will be based on your level of experience when it comes to facing these potentially aggressive and dangerous pests, plus how much time and money you want to invest in resolving the matter.
The University of Iowa – Here’s Why Skunk Smell is So Hard to Get Rid Of