Skunks live in underground dens, usually renovated woodchuck burrows, or in rocky crevasses. In rural and suburban areas skunks may take refuge beneath buildings and in the crawl space under porches.
Skunks are furbearers, and this classification provides them with legal protection except during the hunting and trapping season. Skunk activity rarely causes serious economic loss; rather, their scent creates a nuisance around occupied buildings. They should not be destroyed needlessly since killing a skunk will add to the odor problems near people. When skunks dig holes or destroy turf in their search for grubs, the damage they do may be offset by the benefits of the grubs they control. Soil insects can be controlled with pesticides. Consult County Extension offices for proper pesticides.
Mechanical. All ground-level openings in building foundations and openings beneath porches and crawl spaces should be sealed with concrete, sheet metal, or heavy wire to prevent skunks and other animals from becoming established in areas where they are not wanted. If skunks are already settled under a building, close all openings except one, then check the remaining opening for tracks after dark. It may be necessary to place an artificial tracking surface such as lime, sand or flour at the burrow entrance to determine if the skunk is inside or outside the den. If tracks show that the animal has left, close the opening. During May and June young skunks may be left in the den unattended; avoid sealing the openings at that time because the young would starve.
Skunks occasionally bother beehives. When this occurs, put hives on stands several feet off the ground and tack sheet metal on the legs of stands to prevent skunks from climbing to the hives.
Skunks that invade suburban areas may accidentally fall into cellar window wells. Place a rough-sawn board, or one with cleats tacked crosswise, into the window well at a shallow angle so the skunk can climb out. If a skunk accidentally enters a garage or basement, do not chase or disturb it; leave doors open so the animal can wander out on its own after dark.
Trapping. Live-trapping with a wooden live trap baited with fish-based cat food, canned fish or chicken parts is the preferred method for removing nuisance skunks. Skunks should not be trapped in leg-hold traps as they will most likely release their scent. Wire live traps may be used, but a skunk is more likely to release its scent in this type of trap than in the more confining wooden live trap. Specifically designed fully metal traps are also commercially available.
Because the skunk is classified as a furbearer, you must contact your local conservation agent after capturing or killing a skunk so as not to be in conflict with the Wildlife Code. Skunks captured in a live trap can be moved safely, if the trap is kept dark by covering it with an old rug or burlap and then is handled gently.
Odor. Skunk odor persists for long periods, and it is difficult to neutralize. Household products that help remove skunk odor include ammonia, bleach, vinegar and canned tomatoes or juice. Commercial deodorants, which are most effective in treating skunk odors, are available from some pest-control operators.