While they may look cute, skunks are destructive animals with the potential to carry the rabies virus. They will tear up the garden in search of grubs and leave terrible odors that last for days.
The key to a skunk-free yard is to make your property as unattractive to skunks as possible. This involves a combination of restricting their access to food, getting rid of hiding spots, and using natural skunk deterrents. Here are tips on how to keep skunks out of your garden.
Remove and restrict sources of food
The number one thing that brings skunks into the yard is food. Skunks are omnivores that feed mostly on insects and small rodents. They also eat grubs, earthworms, berries, and mushrooms. Vegetable gardens, pet food, garbage cans, and bird feeders especially attract skunks.
Store garbage and recycling in a shed or garage until collection day. Use lidded receptacles that can be locked or held shut with a weight and clean them every now and then to remove odors.
Next, get rid of every other food source in the yard. Avoid leaving any pet food out and get rid of the bird feeder. Bird feeders are hotspots of pest and wildlife activity. If you have fruit trees, be sure to pick up their fruit as soon as they fall to the ground.
You can also protect your produce by building raised garden beds. Skunks are poor climbers that will have trouble reaching your plants if they are a foot or two above ground. You can then protect your plants even further with bed covers, which can be hinged on the side for convenience. This will also keep raccoons, rodents, and other wildlife from damaging your plants.
Contact a wildlife removal company
A professional wildlife removal company can tell you where the skunks are coming from and design a plan that keeps them out. He or she will examine your property for potential denning sites and, if skunks are found, they will be removed humanely. These specialists are thoroughly trained so that no skunks will be harmed in the process.
Wildlife removal experts usually evict skunks from their dens by installing a one-way door to the entrance. This lets the animals out safely but prevents their return. They simply push their way through the door when they want to leave their den. If there are babies, the remover will wait until they are old enough to leave on their own.
Exclude the deck and garden shed
In addition to their skunk removal services, professionals can exclude the potential denning sites found during the inspection. They can skunk-proof your deck and garden shed by digging a trench around them and attaching a mesh into their sides.
If you want to exclude these areas yourself, dig a trench along the sides of the structure you want to protect. Dig about a foot deep into the ground, then screw half-inch mesh into the sides of the structure. A 16-gauge, galvanized steel mesh will offer you the best protection and will last for many years. Having the mesh stick out on the bottom of the structure will prevent skunks from digging underground. When you are done, bury the mesh.
If there are other entry points on your property, like a gap between the steps to your deck, seal these shut with additional mesh or a wooden plank. Remember that skunks like dark, enclosed areas near the garden.
Add skunk-repelling plants to your garden
There are some plants that skunks prefer to avoid, thanks to their smell or prickly leaves. Try planting any of the following around the garden to keep skunks out.
Stinging nettle has been used to reduce inflammation and treat gout for thousands of years. This is a perennial herb with prickly leaves and hairy stems that deter skunks. When skunks break the hairs off the plant, it releases a liquid that stings their skin.
Plant stinging nettle along the edges of the garden, away from children or pets. The soil should be fertile, in full sun or partial shade. Be sure to plant this where it can be controlled as it likes to run.
There are several varieties of summer squash, including zucchini and pattypan squash. Skunks don’t like to walk on them because their leaves have hairs that irritate their skin. Try adding the squashes of your choice to your vegetable patch in the spring, in well-draining soil where they can get lots of sun.
Crown Imperial is a remarkable plant that looks like it belongs in a book by Dr. Seuss. Also known as Fritillaria imperialis, the flowers on this plant produce a smell that skunks prefer to avoid. Plant Crown Imperial bulbs in the fall, in well-drained soil. They will sprout in the spring and bloom again every year.
Skunks avoid hedges and prickly bushes so that they don’t get hurt. Try surrounding your garden with a hedge of Oregon grape to keep the animals out. Native to western North America, this evergreen plant produces beautiful yellow flowers in the spring. Plant Oregon grape seeds in the fall, in well-drained soil.
Holly is another evergreen shrub with spiky leaves that keep pests out. Plant these near the deck or in areas of skunk activity, where they can get full sun. Note that only female holly produces those beautiful red berries.
Use homemade skunk deterrents
Skunks like to keep to themselves and stay out of trouble. They den in dark, quiet areas and sleep throughout the day. If there is a skunk in your area, you can encourage it to stay off your property with naturally irritating sights and smells.
Apple cider vinegar is a wonderful skunk deterrent. To a skunk, it smells like predator urine. Try mixing one part apple cider vinegar with one part water and spraying it on your plants to keep skunks away. You can also soak a few rags in apple cider vinegar and put them in punctured freezer bags. Place these bags around the deck and garden.
Cat litter can be used in a similar fashion. Sprinkle some used cat litter around the entrance of the skunk’s den or in inconspicuous areas of the garden. The ammonia in your cat’s litter is similar enough to coyote urine that it will scare skunks.
Finally, given that skunks are nocturnal, you can harass these animals out of their dens with bright lights and noise. Simply point a flashlight toward the den and leave it there all day. You can also leave a radio on near the animal’s den to encourage it to leave. Likewise, try setting up motion-activated deterrents with flashing lights or ultrasonic noises when skunks come raiding the garden. They aren’t homemade, but they may prove useful. Motion-activated wildlife deterrents can be found in hardware stores and online.
Author’s Bio: Isabelle Provencher is a writer at Wildlife Shield, a skunk removal company that serves the Greater Toronto Area and beyond. Specializing in humane, holistic, and permanent solutions to all pest problems, the company has seen tremendous growth since its founding in 2013.