The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) is relatively common in urban and suburban areas. Although skunk activity rarely causes serious economic loss, their digging and burrowing activity and their habit of taking refuge under porches and buildings can lead to conflicts. Deter skunks by making pet food, garbage, and animal feed unavailable.
The Wildlife Code of Missouri classifies the striped skunk as a furbearer and game mammal that may be taken during prescribed hunting and trapping seasons. See current regulations for details. The Code also specifies that damage-causing striped skunks may be shot or trapped out of season without a permit. Refer to 3 CSR 10-4.130 Owner May Protect Property; Public Safety of the Code for details and restrictions.
The eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) also occurs in Missouri but in much smaller numbers. It is a species of conservation concern and may not be shot or trapped under this rule.
Generally speaking, skunks are even-tempered and reluctant to spray unless harassed. If you encounter a skunk, remain calm, move slowly and deliberately, and avoid sudden movements. Restrain pets so they won’t attack and cause the skunk to spray.
Prevent skunks from taking refuge under buildings by blocking or sealing any ground-level openings with wood, sheet metal, wire mesh, or other suitable material. Female skunks sometimes burrow under concrete slabs to establish dens to bear young. Prevent this by burying wire mesh along the slab.
If a skunk has already settled under a building or slab, block all openings except one. Place sand, lime, or kitchen flour around the opening, then check the opening the next day for tracks. If tracks indicate the animal is outside the den, seal the opening. Young skunks may be present during May and June, and sealing the opening then would result in starvation and odor. If possible, keep pets away and allow the young to grow and abandon the den — typically by mid-August — then seal the opening.
- If a skunk has fallen into a basement window well, wait until evening, then place a rough-sawn board or board with cleats tacked crosswise into the well at a shallow angle so the skunk can climb out.
- If a skunk has entered a garage or basement, leave doors open so the animal can wander out on its own after dark.
- Skunks sometimes raid bee hives for honey and larvae. Place hives on elevated stands and tack sheet metal on stand legs to prevent skunks from climbing.
Fumigants & Repellents
These are not recommended because none are known to be effective. Mothballs, in particular, are not only ineffective. They contain toxic naphthalene, and the vapor is harmful to humans.
Fully-enclosed cage-type traps are effective and reduce the potential for spraying. Wooden box or cage-type traps can also be used. Bait with over-ripe bananas, peanut butter, jelly, or marshmallows to avoid capturing neighborhood cats. If using a regular cage-type trap, after capture cover the trap with a towel or burlap bag to keep the animal calm. Move quietly, deliberately, and avoid sudden movements to minimize the potential for spraying.
Body-grip traps are not allowed for dry-land sets in Missouri. Foot-hold traps are effective but require special skill and experience and usually cause the animal to spray. Restrictions apply, so see current regulations for details.
Shooting a skunk almost always causes it to spray and therefore is not recommended unless in an area where the odor will not be troublesome. Check with local authorities regarding the use of firearms.
Skunk essence is a sulfur-based compound known as n-butyl mercaptan. The odor can persist for long periods and is often difficult to neutralize. Commercial deodorants are available from some pest control operators. Household products reported to remove skunk odor include ammonia, bleach, vinegar, and canned tomatoes or juice.
The following homemade concoction is safe, easy to make, and does a good job of neutralizing skunk odor. It is also non-toxic, breaks down quickly, and can be dumped anywhere.
NOTE: This recipe is for spot removal of skunk odor on items sprayed directly by the skunk, not for general deodorizing of large areas that smell due to indirect air contact with the dissipating odor.
- 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (standard drugstore stuff)
- One-quarter (0.25) cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon liquid dish or laundry soap
The peroxide and baking soda form an alkaline peroxide that chemically changes the skunk essence into sulfonic acid, an odorless chemical. The soap breaks down the oily essence, which helps the solution penetrate fabric and hair, and also makes the essence more susceptible to the chemical.
Mix the ingredients in an open pail and then apply directly to the sprayed object, getting it fairly wet. If a pet, avoid the eyes and rinse immediately because the peroxide can bleach fur. Do not apply directly on rugs or furniture because fabric will bleach. Grass in contact with the potion will turn brown.
The solution works best when fresh. Do not pre-mix and then cap it because it can foam and blow off the cover, or even break glass if stored in a sealed jar.