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How to Get Rid of Skunks in Your Yard, According to Pest Experts

It's possible to clear this problem completely.

Not every household pest is a creepy crawler that you can eliminate with a bottle of bug spray and a paper towel—like cockroaches, ants, and gnats. Some creatures, like skunks, require a bit more strategy and sometimes even major structural and lifestyle changes to keep them at bay. If you're wondering how to get rid of skunks in your yard, keep reading. We asked pest control experts about the best preventative measures you can take, as well as ways to actively deter them. They'll be out of your yard in no time, with no harm done to either the skunk or your space.

RELATED: 6 Plants That Keep Deer Out of Your Yard, According to Experts.

What Attracts Skunks to My Yard?

Young Striped Skunk in roadside ditch
bobloblaw / iStock

In order to keep skunks out of your outdoor space, it's important to understand what brought them there in the first place.

"Skunks are similar to raccoons in that they are opportunists, meaning that they will pretty much take advantage of anything that might benefit them in some way, regardless of what it is," says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love.

Unfortunately, skunks can make use of quite a lot. "That includes garbage cans, pet food, crawl spaces where they can create homes, water bowls, piles of lumber, grills, and bird and squirrel feeders," says Yamaguchi.

The animals are omnivores, and their diet typically consists of mice, rats, birds, eggs, bugs, nuts, and fruit. That means your garbage scraps fit nicely into their preferred menu. But they're also after shelter—favoring protected dark spaces, like the ones under lifted sheds, decks, and crawlspaces.

Any of the above could be what brought them to your space.

How Bad Are Skunks?

Skunks are famous for the foul odor they can emit when frightened, which may also cause discomfort if it gets in your or your pet's eyes. Fortunately, getting sprayed is not that common, and a skunk will typically display warning signs like stamping their feet, hissing, and raising their tails before they spray.

According to the Humane Society, skunks are non-aggressive and can even do some good for your yard, like eating insects and rodents that are also considered pests.

RELATED: Seeing Stray Cats in Your Yard? Here's Why They're Lurking Around Now.

How to Get Rid of Skunks

1. Add light.

A fire pit and adirondack chairs sit under string lights, ready to enjoyed
iStock

Skunks find light fairly irritating.

"Skunks are crepuscular and nocturnal, which means they are active during twilight and dark periods," says Jordan Schaul, MS, PhD, a wildlife scientist and former zoo curator. "So, outdoor motion-sensing lights can be helpful deterrents."

If the skunk problem is more intense, you may want a lighting option that stays on all night until the critters move elsewhere.

2. Set up a sprinkler.

lawn sprinkler
Shutterstock

Similar to a motion-detector light, you can set up a motion-detector sprinkler system that releases a burst of water if a skunk steps within range.

Brett Bennett, director of operations for PURCOR Pest Solutions, recommends one if you have a skunk that likes to visit. The sudden sprinkle will startle the skunk and scare it away, sometimes even for the long term.

3. Use an organic repellant.

Woman spraying flowers in the garden
iStock

This method of keeping skunks out of your yard plays to their sense of smell, and it's harmless to them.

"Skunks tend to hate strong, spicy smells, and I've seen people have success with capsaicin sprays or any type of chili or pepper-based spray," says Bennett. "You can use these around existing dens or just around areas you suspect skunks are frequenting to deter them."

4. Secure your garbage bins.

Man pulling a wheeled dumpster out of his garage while going to work
Shutterstock

Skunks, like many other backyard pests, are always looking for food, and an overflowing garbage can is an easy place to get it. First, make sure your garbage bins close tightly shut.

"I would also personally recommend bringing garbage bins into a garage or other secure location in the evening—or simply storing them in there—since trash tends to be a pretty major attractant for skunks," says Bennett.

It'll also keep away other animals like raccoons, rats, and roaches.

5. Build underground barriers.

Person Digging in Yard
Krasula / Shutterstock

"Skunks are often in your yard on the hunt for a cozy, dark, out-of-the-way den, and the area underneath your deck or a garden shed can be an enticing prospect," says Ryan Farley, CEO of LawnStarter.

Installing fencing in those areas can keep them out. "Make sure the fencing is buried at least a few inches underground since skunks will dig under shallower barriers," advises Farley.

RELATED: 6 Top Signs There Are Snakes in Your Yard.

6. Don't feed pets outside.

border collie laying near food bowl
Krasula / Shutterstock

If you or your neighbors are leaving out cat or dog food for the neighborhood animals, it could be attracting other creatures to your yard—like skunks!

"Avoid feeding pets outdoors, and if you do, be sure to clean up thoroughly," says Allan Bossel, operations expert at Bed Bug Exterminator. You should also bring in any water bowls too, lest a nearby skunk makes a habit of visiting your yard for a refreshing drink.

7. Skip the bird feeder.

Close-up of a female American Goldfinch who has the birdfeeder all to herself in the backyard.
iStock

These are fun for birds, but they can also feed the skunks.

"You might want to consider just getting rid of them altogether if you have skunks in the area," says Yamaguchi.

8. Clean your grill.

Grill and Outdoor Kitchen
Jen Helton / Shutterstock

Again, crumbs create a low-effort feast for skunks. "Make sure your grill is cleaned and covered," says Yamaguchi. It'll go a long way in keeping away pests of all kinds.

9. Maintain, maintain, maintain!

middle-aged man raking in yard
Shutterstock / romul 014

General maintenance and cleanliness are your best defenses against pests.

"A yard that's well-maintained with limited low coverage and overgrown vegetation will also be less likely to attract critters," says Bossel.

"Critters seek easy shelter and food, and avoid instances that are threatening or unpredictable—understand what attracts skunks to your home and then address each variable that could be attractive."

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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