Skunks are something a lot of folks laugh about but when you move out to the country they are really no joke. Don’t get me wrong, they have their purpose, but when you have too many of them in a certain area they can be a real problem.
Let me tell you what happened to Matt and me when we were 24 and moved to our place!
As some of you might know already we spent most of our time before the house was built living in a 1978 Holiday Rambler camper measuring 18 feet long. It was a small space but we made it work.
We noticed there were a lot of skunks around but were not that surprised at the same time because the property had not even had cattle grazing on it for a long time.
Then we found out that my family/neighbors were setting out scraps of food for them and had been doing so for years.
They even had some of them named!
It was pretty common to smell them every few days or catch them trying to rummage around our camper. We had to be very careful about leaving anything out that smelled the least bit like food. Since we had a small metal toolshed on a foundation, we could manage ok as long as we remembered to shut the door to it before nightfall or keep all the animal feed in a container that a skunk could not climb or gnaw its way into.
That was simply not enough. The population was artificially large due to the extra food and lack of predators around.
Some might think that like any small varmint that you can just shoot them and be done with it but with a lot of skunks it is not that easy because even if you can bring yourself to just shoot them you are left with a really smelly situation.
Most dogs will learn to avoid skunks after getting sprayed once but our dog Ruby got sprayed 4-5 times before she gave up. I will talk more about that later.
Using a Live Trap to Catch and Remove S
Trapping them is not easy either because once you have them trapped, it is really hard to move them without getting sprayed. I am not saying live traps are not an option and I will explain further about how to use this method if needed.
First of all, you will need to purchase a live trap large enough for a skunk. These are readily available on Amazon or at Tractor Supply. If you live in a town, you may be able to get animal control to set a trap for you or come get the skunk after you catch it. If animal control is not an option then you have only a few options.
Move the skunk a bit further from your property and release it. You have to be very careful when doing this. Here is the procedure that has worked for us.
Quickly drape a sheet or towel over the cage. You may need to temporarily blind the skunk with a flashlight. I know that sounds mean but you really don’t want to get sprayed by a skunk. Do not move really fast or you may frighten them.
Carefully lift the cage and carry it to another location or put it in the back of a truck. Never put a skunk in an enclosed vehicle. That is just crazy to even think about!
Take the skunk somewhere else but don’t dump it out on other people. National forests and other wildlife areas are a far better option. None of this is ideal but if you don’t want to kill skunks and need to rehome them, you only have so many options.
Dangers of Skunks
Skunks are a leading carrier of rabies
Matt and I actually had what we suspected was a rabid skunk walk up our road and past our dogs. This was years after we had the skunk population under control. We have a wooded section of the property and there are large tracks all around us so once in a while there is going to be something small wander in. It doesn’t happen that much anymore because we have a good fence and multiple dogs patrolling.
Rabies is very serious. If you get attacked by a rabid animal the treatment is expensive and from what I heard quite painful because you have to get so many shots and they are spread out over a time period too so it is a time-consuming treatment.
If a skunk is rabid then your choices are to shoot it and report it to animal control or let it wander off.
Always make sure your dogs and cats have up to date rabies vaccinations! Sometimes there are low-cost clinics available in the Spring in areas where rabies is a problem. This can help out those on fixed incomes or with multiple pets. That being said, I have never heard of a case of a dog or cat that has had even a single rabies shot in its lifetime, contracting the disease. Regardless you should keep them up to date.
If a skunk releases spray inside of a confined space like a burrow or tunnel and a small dog or cat is in there, they can suffocate and die.
One of the dangers of being an “earth dog” owner is that your pooch will get the scent of a skunk and try to get at it in its den. Dogs like small terriers and dachshunds are particularly vulnerable to this fate. Just because you raised them as family pets don’t mean they lack the instinct to hunt something down. Be aware of what your dogs are up to and take it seriously if you have skunks denning up on your place.
Skunks will kill a lot more animals than they will eat and are big enough to kill cats.
Matt and I lost 5 baby rabbits our doe had just had. It only took a few minutes for a skunk to kill all of them. Skunks are large enough to severely injure and even kill cats too.
Pet skunks are illegal in many statesBy octobop – https://www.flickr.com/photos/octobop/28864786/, CC BY 2.0, Link
Ok, I know that some people have seen super cute looking pet skunks or even seen them for sale online. Those skunks have had their scent glands removed by a licensed veterinarian and they have been raised in captivity. This attention also means they have been vaccinated for rabies just like your dog or cat.
Don’t assume you can catch a skunk and make a pet out of it. Most vets will not help you and it may even be illegal. If it is legal to have one for a pet then go through a proper breeder and pay the money for the right thing. I am not saying anyone should have one as a pet but if you must, do it the right way.
While a dog may smell bad after getting sprayed, the effects of the spray can be quite awful.
Remember that smaller dogs may suffer a lot more than larger dogs because they are getting such a larger concentration of spray than a big dog. Skunks normally get dogs right between the eyes because dogs are facing them and sniffing or at least checking them out.
Treating Dogs and Cats That Have Been Skunked
Just for the record, most dogs only get skunked once before they learn to avoid skunks but there are exceptions.
Our dog, Ruby Pearl, had a very odd reaction to skunks. After she got skunked the first time, she didn’t learn. Instead, she decided to actually hunt them and proceeded to get skunked 4-5 times before learning to not mess with them. Of course, we got the skunk population under control too so that helped out. If you have a dog that is a hunting breed then you may have a similar experience until you get the skunk issue under control.
There are a lot of different rumored home remedies for animals that have been skunked. Here are a few tips for dealing with situations you may find yourself in when it comes to your pet.
I am going to go over a few methods that have worked for us over the years. I realize that what you choose to use on a pet or on livestock is a very personal decision. Some pets and livestock are more sensitive to some soaps and other remedies that others. If your pet has special needs or considerations then they should be a factor in your decision for treatment.
As I said before, the size of the animal that is exposed to the skunk spray matters. Smaller dogs and cats that have been sprayed may experience more severe symptoms such as actual blindness or seizures when exposed to skunks. You should use your best judgment when it comes to making the decision to go to the vet or not. Cats can be more problematic to treat at home so you may just want to pay the money for a vet visit. If small animals have been sprayed in the eyes a lot then that can be very bad.
- Always use gloves when treating pets
- Rinse your pet’s eyes with saline solution or water without any chlorine or other additives even if you are rushing them to the vet for further treatment. The longer the spray is in the eyes the worse it is for your pet and the greater the chance of permanent damage.
Baking soda and water can help neutralize the scent
When our dog, Ruby Pearl, gets skunked we use a very strong paste of baking soda and water on the strongest scented areas. You need to be very careful to not get this in your dogs eyes, but it will help eliminate the odor.
After the baking soda has been applied you can proceed with washing your dog. I advise wearing clothes that you can just throw away or that you don’t care a lot about. If you can manage to get your dog to let the soap set for a minute or two it can be for the best.
This is what our local hunting supply store sells for treating skunked dogs. It is a spray but you can use it as soap to wash clothes and other items that have skunk smell too. You just spray it on your dog or cat and it eliminates a lot of the odor. You are not going to totally eliminate something that strong with any spray but it does make a huge difference at a reasonable cost.
This product was not available to me when we were having our skunk issues. It is a good alternative to the Skunkbuster we used. Those that have reviewed this product seem to like it a lot better too. You can get it in a lavender scent too which might be nice.
Dawn dishwashing liquid works well for removing skunk scent. I know it is not labeled for dogs but remember that Dawn is used to clean animals that have experienced the effects of catastrophic oil spills. I wouldn’t recommend you use it for every bath but when it comes to skunks, it is a reasonable choice.
This shampoo is cost-effective and it can be used safely on dogs and cats over 8 weeks old. If you are more comfortable with a product that is specifically labeled for pets, this might be a shampoo worth having on hand for various smelly pet situations.
Keep other pets away from those that have been skunked.
Our cats really love our dogs so they will rub on them. When a dog has been skunked that can be a big problem, especially if you have a cat that spends time indoors and out. If you don’t keep them separated until the smell is dealt with you run a very high risk of having two smelly pets on your hands. Since it may be the next morning before you notice a smell or problem, there is a chance you are too late to prevent pets from spreading the smell to others.
Other Popular Remedies
This is a remedy that gets recommended a lot but Matt and I have never tried it. We have big dogs and tomato juice is expensive compared to the other solutions I have talked about. If that is what you have on hand then it may be worth a try as a rinse.
I have read that a solution of 2 parts water and 1 part apple cider vinegar works as a rinse to get rid of skunk odor on pets. Wet your pets coat and then apply the solution, avoiding the eyes, and allow to set for 5 minutes before rinsing. If your dog has a lot of odor on them you might want to give it another minute but don’t leave on too long.
Allow your pet to rest and recover
Getting sprayed by a skunk will make any dog feel low. It will take a day or two for them to not act a bit sick. They may not eat as well as usual or want to take walks or play.
Prevention and skunk repellents
There are some things that can help keep skunks away from your property. Here are a few tips for those in town and for those in the country.
Keep your pets inside at night if skunks are a known problem.
For those that have dogs that are watching livestock or guarding property, this is not possible of course but if you have small pets or live in town, you should consider keeping them inside at night if skunks are becoming a problem.
Keep any trash or compost in containers that cannot be accessed by skunks.
Skunks love to dig through smelly trash and they can smell very well.
Never leave any pet or livestock feeds out at night in places that skunks can access.
Auto feeders for dogs, cats, and livestock will help feed skunks if they find they can get to them. Remove uneaten food before nightfall or just feed your dogs and cats inside.
Eliminate all the ground hornet nests you find.
Skunks really love to dig up hornet nests. While this may seem like a service to you and your farm or homestead, if you have a lot of nests, they could be helping provide a food supply to support a native skunk population.
Discourage others from feeding skunks and raccoons
There are some folks that really enjoy watching skunks and raccoons. They will buy corn, peanuts, and other treats for them. If you are having a problem with skunks and a neighbor mentions feeding them, you might want to politely tell them about the issues you are experiencing and the dangers of feeding wildlife. Plenty of animals have been put to death for becoming too friendly and/or aggressive due to people feeding them.
Fence your property
Skunks can get through a small opening and they definitely like to dig. A fence can help more than you might think despite this because getting through takes more work for them than going somewhere else. If the spaces between wires are small on your fence or the barrier is solid, you will have better protection. Inexpensive chicken wire can be added to the bottom on fences with larger spaces at the bottom and you can use it on the ground to prevent them from digging in.
Electronic Skunk Repellents and Granules
There are quite a few products that claim to repel skunks. Like any repellent you can find online, the reviews tend to be mixed or there may be a single product that has a lot of good reviews. To be blunt I am always suspicious of the ones that have too good to be true reviews. Here are a few that I found for you to take a look at.
I have not used any of these products so I cannot make any claims as to how well they work or will work for you. I just want to show you what is out there so you can decide what you want to try. Most things can be pretty easily returned on Amazon so that may be helpful if you are hesitant about spending money on something that is uncertain.
These are probably most practical for yards and other small areas. The motion sensor reaches 24-27 feet out if there are no obstructions. Each device is powered by AA batteries that are recharged via the solar panel on top. Since they only cover a small area, they are not the most practical solution for those seeking solutions for larger farms and properties.
These granules are made to be spread at property boundaries and around plants that you want to protect from wildlife. They are listed as lasting up to 60 days. I inspected the label and discovered that the main ingredients of the granules are pretty basic.
You are paying for putrified eggs, cloves, cayenne pepper oil, and garlic oil. The idea is that when animals sniff or taste the granules, their nasal passages will get irritated enough that they leave your place alone. I did notice that some people said that in a rainy climate, you have to reapply very often. While it may seem like it would be smelly to people, those that use it say it is not.
Making Your Own Skunk Repellent
While you might want to try out the Bionide Granules to see if it works for you, after that you might want to consider making your own. The ingredients are simple and could be combined in a spray bottle and used as needed on perimeters. Remember that this could irritate your skin and your nose so you might want to use an N95 respirator, glasses, and gloves when applying.
Here are some of the ingredients you can use. You may want to play around with concentrations and which ingredients you choose to use.
- Liquid eggs that you have allowed to get a bit “ripe”. This may be a little too smelly for you to want to use.
- Cayenne pepper flakes or cayenne pepper oil if making a spray
- Cloves or clove oil if you are making a spray
- Garlic oil
Combine all the liquids you choose to use in a spray bottle or a small tank sprayer if you are covering a larger area. Use immediately, especially if you are using any liquid egg.
What have you found that works for keeping skunks away? Do you have a recipe for repellent? Any tips for cleaning animals that have been sprayed?