Skunk Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling

Overview of Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Habitat Modification

  • Remove garbage, debris, and lumber piles 


  • Close cellar, outside basement, and crawl-space doors 
  • Seal and cover all openings  
  • Trench-screen decks and porches 
  • Install wire mesh fences around poultry yards 
  • Elevate beehives and install aluminum guards 
  • Secure the base of fences  
  • One-way doors 


  • Limited value 


  • None registered 


  • Gas cartridges  


  • Effective, but usually emits odor 


  • No. 1 foothold 
  • No. 160 or 220 Conibear®-style or body-gripping traps 
  • 7- x 7- x 24-inch cage or box trap 

Other Control Methods

  • Direct capture

Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Habitat Modification

Remove garbage, debris, and lumber piles to reduce attractiveness of an area to skunks. In general, skunks prefer cover and debris‐filled areas as these provide excellent hunting grounds. Properly dispose of garbage or other food sources that will attract skunks. Skunks often are attracted to rodents living in barns, crawl spaces, sheds, and garages. Control programs for rodents may be necessary to eliminate these attractive food sources.


Seal all ground‐level openings into poultry buildings and close doors at night. Poultry yards and coops without subsurface foundations may be fenced with 3‐foot wire mesh fencing. Bury the fencing as described above. Skunks can be excluded from window wells or similar pits with mesh fencing or window well covers. All pits greater than 3 inches deep should be secured to prevent entrapment of juvenile skunks. Place beehives on stands 3 feet high. It may be necessary to install aluminum guards around the bases of hives if skunks attempt to climb the supports, though skunks normally do not climb. Use tight‐fitting lids to keep skunks out of garbage cans.

Keep skunks from denning under buildings by sealing off all foundation openings. Cover all openings with wire mesh, sheet metal, or concrete. Where skunks can gain access by digging, bury ½‐inch weave fence mesh 2 inches below the ground and extend the mesh out perpendicular from the location being protected at least 12 inches. Increase the depth and extension of mesh in sandy soil or when skunks are highly motivated to enter the location, such as in northern climates.

Diagram showing installation of mesh apron to prevent animals from entering under porch, deck, or shed. Image by UNL.

Use a 1‐way door to exclude skunks from a structure. Secure the perimeter of a deck or shed with trench‐screen. Install a 1‐way door (minimum size 4 x 4 inches) over the entrance in a manner that ensures the skunks can easily exit. Return after several days of good weather to evaluate the location. When the skunk is gone, remove the 1‐way door and secure the opening.

One-way door over entrance to the den of a skunk. The thin vertical sticks in the back will be knocked over if an animal moves through. Photo by Stephen Vantassel.


No frightening devices are effective for the control of skunks.  


No repellents are registered for the control of skunks. 


Gas cartridges are registered for fumigating burrows of skunks. Fumigation kills skunks and any other animals present in the burrows by suffocation or toxic gases. Some states require a permit for use. Follow label directions and take care to avoid fire hazards and exposure of gases to non‐targets. For example, one label reads:  “Do not treat dens under inhabited structures or buildings where toxic gasses could reach humans, pets or domestic animals including livestock.” Light and hold gas cartridges until they ignite before placing them deep in burrows. Seal openings of the burrow with soil to secure the fumigant in the burrow.


Shooting is effective, but there is no reliable method of shooting skunks without emitting odor. If odor is not a problem, use a .22‐caliber rifle or shotgun with No. 6 shot. 


Fish‐flavored cat food, peanut butter, sardines, and chicken entrails are effective baits for skunks. Sweet baits such as marshmallow spread, fruit preserves, and jellies also may be effective when domestic cats are present.

Foothold Trap

Foothold traps should not be used to catch skunks near houses because of the tendency of skunks to spray. A veterinarian or wildlife official should inject a live skunk trapped in a foothold trap with a tranquilizer before attempting to remove it from the trap.

Body-gripping Trap

Body‐gripping or Conibear®‐style traps generally kill the trapped animal. Some states or locations have restrictions against using body-gripping traps on land. Avoid trapping domestic animals, such as cats and dogs. It is not advisable to use a body‐gripping trap under or near a structure due to concerns with odor.

Use No. 160‐ or 220‐sized traps. Out‐of‐the‐way dens in rural areas are best places to set these traps. Place traps in front of dens and stake them solidly to prevent the trap from moving as an animal approaches and to prevent trap loss. Always make sure the trap has room to fire, or it will be thrown out of position by the closing action of the jaws. Most trappers push sticks into the ground between the springs and slightly inside of the jaws to help stabilize the trap. Cover den sets with chicken wire to prevent domestic animals from entering the trap, but make sure there is room for the trap to fire.

Cage and Box Traps

Cover cage traps at least 50% of their length, especially when trapping skunks. Otherwise, use box traps. Some manufactures market box traps specifically for skunks. The traps are made of plastic to prevent the skunk from becoming agitated and to provide a visual barrier.

Covers reduce rather than eliminate a skunk’s ability to spray. Always approach a trap slowly and quietly to avoid upsetting a trapped skunk. Hold a small tarp or blanket in front as you approach a trapped skunk. Stop if the skunk shows signs of agitation. When you are close, gently drape the tarp over the trap. Gently remove the trap from the area and release or kill the trapped skunk. Removing and transporting cage or box‐trapped skunks may appear to be precarious business, but covered traps are a proven, save, and effective method for moving skunks.

To remove skunks that are already established under buildings, first seal all possible entrances along the foundation. Leave the main burrow open. Set traps in a barricade to force them into the traps. A minimum of 2 cage or box traps are recommended; 3 would be better. Two‐door traps are very effective, as are single‐door traps. Place traps so that a skunk in one trap cannot reach to trip the adjoining trap.

Two 1078 Woodstream cage traps set in front of the entrance to a skunk’s den. The barricade forces skunks into traps. Photo by Stephen Vantasssel.

After the first capture, replace or reset the traps. If no skunk is caught, remove traps and set test sticks over the den entrance to determine if more skunks are present. If no activity is observed in 2 to 3 days, the den likely is empty.

Place sticks at the den’s entrance to determine if a hole is being used.
Photo by Stephen Vantassel.

Other Control Methods

Direct capture

Sometimes skunks must be captured directly, without the use of traps because the urgency of the situation demands immediate action. Skunks that are sick or in high‐visibility areas typically require direct removal. You cannot guarantee an odor‐free removal. Equipment needed includes, gloves, light‐colored blanket (large enough to cover the holding cage and protect the lower half of your body), cat grasper, and a transport cage.

  1. Restrict the movement of the skunk.
  2. Keep the blanket between you and the skunk.
  3. Keep a low profile. Skunks feel threatened when large objects approach.
  4. Watch how the skunk behaves. Approach slowly and stop when the skunk seems agitated. Speak softly or not at all.
  5. When close enough, move quickly and precisely. Cover the skunk with the blanket, capture it with the cat‐grasper, and insert it into the open cage. Sometimes skunks will walk right into an open cage.
  6. Deodorize as needed.