Campus News

Wildlife biologist and turfgrass specialist share ways to get rid of skunks

Michael Mengak, wildlife biologist and professor at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and Clint Waltz, extension turfgrass specialist, spoke with Southern Living about the best ways to get rid of skunks from yards.

While skunks are not a big problem for most homeowners, Mengak expressed caution.

“They’re not aggressive, and they’ll squirt your dog sooner than you,” he said. “But they can carry rabies, so you should not handle them.”

Besides seeing the animal leaving its den or walking around the yard, people may realize they have skunks if they smell urine, feces and a musky odor from underneath their house or shed, Mengak said.

Another sign of skunks is the presence of 1- to 3-inch cone-shaped holes in your lawn.

“The skunks are foraging for grubs and worms,” said Waltz. “This is an indication that you may have underlying insect problems in your turf that may not have reached a high enough threshold to cause damage to the grass yet.”

Waltz recommended setting up a game camera to make sure the lawn damage has been caused by a skunk. Once homeowners are sure, he said they may need to apply grub control to treat their lawn for the insects for which the skunks are likely looking.

Also refrain from leaving pet food bowls outside, Mengak said. This will attract skunks as well as other unwanted guests like opossums.

For those who have decks or other crawl spaces, Mengak recommended excluding the skunks with hardware cloth. Make sure to bury the cloth several inches below ground.

Anyone who is sprayed by a skunk should flush their eyes immediately with cold water. The old tomato juice remedy will not work in chemically neutralizing the odor, Mengak said. The tomato juice is simply tricking the nose by blocking out the skunk odor.

Instead, people can use commercial products for odor abatement or a recipe created by a chemist in the early ’90s. The recipe calls for one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, one-fourth cup of baking soda and one to two teaspoons of liquid dish soap.

“It’s probably going to take repeated applications,” said Mengak.

Be sure to not store the mixture or put it in a closed container because the chemicals will react and explode. After using the mixture, it is recommended to not use a dryer because any remaining skunk oil can set on hair, fur or skin.