despite their reputation, the skunks that live among us can be beneficial animals. they quietly provide some homeowners with a natural form of pest control, eating many of the rodents and insects we might not otherwise like to have as guests.
skunk activity can also get out of control quickly. In their search for food, water and shelter, skunks can become pests that damage both your yard and your home. Here are some quick tips to identify skunks in your area and to help keep their activity in check.
types of skunks
There are twelve species of skunks, four of which you are most likely to encounter on your property.
(mephitis mephitis) are commonly found in suburban neighborhoods, among other habitats. they are black and generally the size of a domestic cat. they also have prominent white stripes on their snouts, as well as a v-shaped white marking on the back of their bodies. they are the largest of all skunk species and can weigh up to 14 pounds.
(mephitis macroura) are sometimes confused with striped skunks, but their tails are longer and their fur is softer. hooded skunks also sport distinctive tufts of fur around their necks. some hooded skunks have two thin white stripes running down their back and tail, while others have a single thick stripe and a solid white tail.
(conepatus mesoleucus) are large skunks (2.5 to 6 lbs.) marked with a single broad white stripe running from nose to tail. They inhabit rocky or sparsely forested regions of North America. A large population can be found in Texas. Their long claws and snouts make them excellent diggers, and they will rummage through the ground in search of food.
1-4 are divided into eastern (spilogale putorius) and western (spilogale gracilis) varieties. if you see a skunk climbing a tree, it’s likely an eastern spotted skunk. eastern spotted skunks have several broken white stripes along their backs and a black tail tip that is generally shorter than the tail of other skunks. the western spotted skunk, in contrast, has a white tip on its tail and broader white stripes on its back. these skunks are small, weighing between 14 ounces and 2 pounds.
Many animals hide or camouflage themselves when a predator is around, but skunks give a warning. for example, striped skunks and hooded skunks may stomp, hiss, puff out their fur, or lift up their tails before finally using the stinking weapon for which they are best known.
skunks are generally non-aggressive, but like most animals, they will defend themselves when threatened. skunks are equipped with special glands located under their tails. these glands produce an oily fluid known as skunk musk. when skunks sense a threat, they spray their attacker with this musk. The chemical composition of the musk skunk varies by species, but each version contains compounds called thiols that are responsible for the malodour.
skunk spray can travel up to 10 feet (although scent can be detected farther), and when striped skunks and hooded skunks aim, they are amazingly accurate. skunk musk is generally harmless. however, it can cause nausea in some people and, if it gets in the eyes, can cause temporary blindness. The bad smell is also temporary, but it can still linger for days and defy the most valiant attempts to wash it away or cover it up.
skunks dig their own burrows, but often prefer to occupy those built by other animals. Skunks also burrow in hollow logs, and you may even find them under your deck, shed, or foundation.
skunks are nocturnal creatures and prefer to forage for food at night. They are also omnivorous and will consume everything from rodents and birds to insects, birdseed, pet food, or household garbage.
skunk pros and cons
Having skunks on your property can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective. They eat many types of harmful agricultural and garden pests, such as root-damaging larvae. Skunks can be especially beneficial in rural areas, where they also feed on rats and mice that infest grain and carry disease.
However, skunks are scavengers and will likely feed on whatever is on hand. On farms, skunks have been known to chew on corn stalks, eat poultry or eggs, and even damage bee hives. in urban areas, their digging can also be a nuisance, leaving holes in lawns, gardens, and golf courses.
Skunk holes can be 1 to 3 inches in diameter and deep. and in their effort to find larvae and insects, the holes may move from one section to another each night.
skunk control measures
If you have a skunk problem on your property, here are some tips to help control skunks.
If you discover a skunk living under your house or garage, you can always contact the pest professionals at terminix®. we offer free inspections for wildlife removal services tailored to your needs.