If you’ve ever come across a skunk, you probably know how hard it is not to panic. You probably start thinking of all the stories you’ve heard about the skunk’s legendary stench. How it’s the worst thing you’ll ever smell. How you’ll have to bathe in tomato juice. Or how it’ll never, ever really come out.
It’s an understandable reaction, but it’s also a misguided one. Skunks are far less wrathful and prone to rogue spraying than their reputation implies. In fact, they’re really naturally shy, mild-mannered creatures. The best thing you can do when you encounter one is STAY CALM. Still, that’s easier said than done, which is why we’ve prepared this guide on skunk encounters. Here’s what you should do (besides remaining calm) if you ever encounter a skunk...
...In the open
If you encounter a skunk in the open, it’s probably either hunting or returning to its den. Skunks are nocturnal, so you’re most likely to run into one at night
. Skunks hunt by digging for grubs and worms in loose soil. They tend to like to stay in cover, so you’re more likely to find them under shade or in tall grass. Skunks become more active in fall when they’re eating more to prepare for winter.
If you run into a skunk out in the open, the first thing you should do is stop moving. Skunks have very poor eyesight, and sudden movements may startle them. If possible, avoid letting the skunk see you at all. Next, figure out where they’re going so you can get out of their way. Move slowly and steadily out of the path of the skunk. Once you’re out of the way, simply keep walking away at the same slow, steady pace.
...In its den
Skunks build simple, shallow dens, usually by burrowing beneath existing structures for extra cover. They dig under wood and rock piles, trees or stumps, and even under porches, decks, sheds, and buildings. Skunks usually conceal the entrance to their dens with leaves, stones, or grass. Often, they’ll also build out existing holes or hollows, or steal burrows from other digging wildlife. Once skunks establish a den, they rarely venture far away from it
until breeding season.
First, the obvious: you should never
approach a skunk den on purpose. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to accidentally stumble on skunk dens, especially if a skunk builds one near your home. If that happens, avoid making sudden movements or sounds. Avoid startling the skunk or waking it up suddenly. Move away from the den slowly. If the skunk built its den beneath your porch or deck, don’t walk across it until you’ve removed the skunk. Contact pros to get that done ASAP.
...Near your home
Usually, skunks wander onto your property because they’ve built their nests nearby. Skunks commonly burrow beneath porches, decks, sheds, or openings around the perimeter of a home. The structure provides skunks with natural cover, which makes them feel more secure. Skunks commonly build burrows in fall to prepare for winter
. Once established, skunks often hunt in the yards near their dens. They may also occasionally fall into window wells while hunting or returning to their burrows.
You should leave skunks alone whenever possible, even if they’re in your yard. We recommend against approaching a hunting skunk to “harass” it away from your yard. At best, you’ll only temporarily scare it off. At worst, you’re getting sprayed. Instead, give the skunk in your yard a wide berth. Try to figure out where its burrow is (carefully) so you can avoid the area. If a skunk falls into a window well, call us right away so we can safely remove it.
...And accidentally startle it
Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to startle a skunk. They have very poor and often stumble into encounters with people or other wildlife unwittingly. After resting or entering their winter dormant state, they become lethargic, hungry, and irritable
. Skunks often mistake people for predators or threats when people make sudden movements near them. Generally, skunks are far more likely to spray when they’re confused than when they have their bearings.
If you ever startle a skunk, it may raise its tail, stand on its hind tails, or stomp its feet. Hard as it may be, you still
need to refrain from panicking at this point. The skunk hasn’t sprayed yet, which means it’s still trying to figure out the situation. Instead, back away from the skunk very slowly and steadily. Don’t turn your back, make sudden movements, raise your arms, or run. Try to put about 10 feet between yourself and the skunk, but don’t rush.
We’ll probably never convince you not to be afraid of skunks. What we would like to do, however, is help you use that fear constructively. Next time you encounter a skunk, use your fear to focus on de-escalating the situation. Remember these tips, and you’ll come out the other side of your close encounter smelling like a rose.
Just because we don’t think you should be afraid of skunks doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them seriously, however. If a skunk takes up residence near you, it could be a serious problem. Give the experts at Varment Guard a call
with any skunk-related problems you’re dealing with right away. We can remove skunks quickly, humanely, and safely.