Skunks

A member of the weasel family, skunks are a common concern among both rural and urban residents in Strathcona County.

Image showing a skunk

Behaviour

Skunks are a nuisance around buildings, mainly because of the potential that they will spray. They may also dig in flowerbeds and gardens, eat garbage, and root through compost heaps.

Breeding season is February through mid-March, with a gestation period of nine weeks. The average litter size is four to seven young. Juveniles disperse in late summer and can travel from five to 20 km.

Skunks have few natural enemies other than man. They are not true hibernators, as they will over-winter in dens, leaving the den on warm winter nights to feed or check out their territory.

Spraying facts

  • Skunks spray, not because they like to, but to defend themselves, as a last resort.
  • Skunks themselves do not smell. The strong odour they spray is offensive to people and animals, including skunks themselves.
  • Skunks have two scent glands, located at the base of the tail and they can spray up to four metres accurately. A skunk will usually stamp its feet, make short charges or arch its tail over the back before spraying.
  • If it were not for the offensive odour, most people would not know of a skunk living in their yard.

Management

Two things attract skunks: food and shelter.

  • Do not leave pet food or water out overnight.
  • Keep garbage cans tightly closed.
  • Cover compost heaps with a lid.
  • Clean and tidy yards to discourage skunks from moving in.
  • Trash, brush, car bodies and loosely stacked lumber piled on the ground are some of the settings skunks look for to set up a home. They will also burrow under porches and sheds, or enter a garage through an open door.
  • If you are going to store articles in the yard, keep them off the ground, and mow grass and weeds.
  • Raise garden sheds on to support beams so the sun can shine underneath.
  • Fully seal off all openings around and under buildings and mobile homes with sheet metal or plywood, buried to a minimum depth of one foot.
  • Nail chicken wire 30 to 60 cm wide to the base of wood decks.
  • Lay chicken wire on the ground like an apron to prevent skunks from burrowing. If you peg the wire corners into the ground, the grass will grow through the mesh for easy mowing.
  • Floodlights or strings of lights may cause a skunk to leave from under steps or a building.
  • Mothballs can be put into the burrow, but they should be crushed to release more odour. Skunks may remove whole mothballs from the burrow.

General odour removal

  • Skunk musk is strong, even in small amounts, and may be noticeable for up to one year.
  • Washing with soap helps. Diluted vinegar also helps to eliminate the smell.
  • Some of the new commercial odour removers work well and can be found at your local home improvement centres.

Rabies

Skunk rabies has not been detected in this area at the present time, but it has been found in southern Alberta along the Montana border.

If a skunk is out during daylight, acting unusual and is not afraid of people, do not approach the skunk. Call Transportation and Agriculture Services at 780-417-7100.

Trapping

If required, skunk traps are available from Transportation and Agriculture Services for a fee of $50.00 + GST for a two-week period.. Please call 780-417-7100 to book a trap (office hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).

Download our  brochure (1.8 MB) for detailed information about trapping skunks.

    • Set the trap either close to the skunk den or near the skunk's normal line of travel.
    • Push in on the springs on the door and lift at the same time. The trap's trigger is located on the top of the door and hooks onto the bar connected to the pan in the bottom of the trap.
    • Do not make any adjustments to the trap. If the trap will not work for you, call our office for assistance.
  • 2. When (and when not) to set the trap Permanent link to When (and when not) to set the trap

    • Set the trap in the evening before dusk; skunks are active mostly at night. In the morning, close the trap to prevent capturing neighbourhood pets or other animals during the day.
    • Staff are available to pick up captured skunks Monday – Friday, no weekend or holiday pick up.
    • During a normal workweek, set the trap Sunday through Thursday nights. Be sure to close the trap on Friday morning and do not reset until Sunday night.
    • If there is a holiday during the week, be sure you do not set the trap the night before. Staff will not be available in the morning to pick up a skunk, should you catch one.
    • Place the bait through the inspection port located at the top rear of the trap.
    • Bread, raw bacon or wieners work well for skunks.
    • If the skunks are eating your pet food, this will attract the skunk best.
    • Small fruit cups are an alternative as they will not attract cats.
    • If the bait disappears but the trap has not closed, it may be that another larger animal is helping itself to a meal. If this is the case, tie the bait to a string which is passed through the inspection port and secured outside the trap.
    • Check the trap each morning.
    • If the trap is closed, look in the inspection port or through the door to make sure it is a skunk that has been captured.
    • Shade the trap from direct sunlight if possible.
    • Keep pets away from the captured skunk.

    Contact our office between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (closed from Noon – 1 p.m.) and we will send someone to pick up the skunk and trap.

    Be sure to seal the entrance to a skunk den once the skunks are gone; otherwise other skunks may inhibit the burrow.

 

Further information:

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Last updated: Thursday, February 28, 2019
Page ID: 38905