How to Get Rid of Skunks in the Backyard

Last Updated on May 26, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford

Ever wondered why your backyard smells funny at night? If you’re dealing with skunks, you’re not alone. Skunks can wreak havoc in your yard, digging up lawns and leaving behind a distinctive, unpleasant odor.

It’s crucial to address this problem quickly, not just for the smell but also to prevent potential damage and health risks.

In this article, you’ll learn how to get rid of skunks in the backyard effectively and humanely.

We’ll cover everything from understanding why skunks are attracted to your yard to the best methods for keeping them away for good. Let’s dive in and tackle this smelly issue head-on.

Understanding Skunks

skunks in backyard
Image credit: Wildlife Center

Description of Skunks and Their Behavior

Skunks are small, nocturnal mammals known for their black and white fur and their ability to spray a foul-smelling liquid as a defense mechanism.

They are generally shy and avoid human contact but can become a nuisance when they make your backyard their home. Skunks dig holes in lawns searching for insects and grubs, causing damage to your yard.

Common Reasons Skunks Are Attracted to Backyards

Food Sources

Skunks are opportunistic eaters. They are attracted to accessible food sources such as garbage cans, pet food, and fallen fruit from trees. If you leave any food out, you’re basically inviting them over for a feast.


Backyards often provide ideal shelter for skunks. They look for places to burrow and hide, such as under decks, sheds, and woodpiles. These areas offer safety and a good environment for raising their young.


Like all animals, skunks need water. They are attracted to yards with water sources like pet water bowls, bird baths, or even leaky hoses. Ensuring there’s no standing water can help keep them away.

Preventative Measures

Securing Garbage and Compost Bins

One of the first steps in keeping skunks away is to secure your garbage and compost bins. Skunks are always on the lookout for easy meals, and an unsecured trash can is a buffet.

Use bins with tight-fitting lids and consider adding clips or straps to keep them closed. Keeping your bins clean and odor-free can also help.

Eliminating Food Sources

Skunks love free food. If you have pet food, birdseed, or fallen fruit in your yard, you’re basically setting up a welcome mat for them. Make sure to:

  • Feed pets indoors and store their food inside.
  • Clean up birdseed regularly and consider using a bird feeder that’s less accessible to skunks.
  • Pick up fallen fruit from trees as soon as possible.

By removing these food sources, you make your yard less inviting to skunks.

Removing Potential Shelter

Skunks are always looking for cozy spots to hide and nest. Piles of wood, debris, or dense shrubbery can provide the perfect shelter. To deter skunks:

  • Clear away woodpiles and other debris.
  • Keep grass and bushes trimmed.
  • Store firewood off the ground and away from your home.

By keeping your yard tidy, you reduce the number of hiding places for skunks.

Sealing Entry Points

Skunks often burrow under decks, sheds, and porches for shelter. To prevent this, it’s important to seal off any potential entry points. Use materials like mesh or chicken wire to block off these areas. Make sure to:

  • Check for and seal any holes or gaps around your home’s foundation.
  • Install barriers around the base of decks and sheds.

By sealing these entry points, you can keep skunks from making your backyard their new home.

Humane Deterrents

Natural Repellents

Using natural repellents can be an effective way to keep skunks away from your yard. Skunks dislike strong smells, so items like citrus peels, ammonia-soaked rags, and predator urine can deter them.

Scatter these around your yard, especially in areas where you’ve seen skunks. These natural solutions are safe for your family and pets but unpleasant for the skunks.

Motion-Activated Sprinklers

A more modern approach involves motion-activated sprinklers. These devices are designed to startle skunks with a burst of water when they come close.

The sudden movement and spray scare the skunks away without causing them harm. Install these in areas where skunks are likely to enter your yard.

Ultrasonic Devices

Ultrasonic devices emit a high-pitched sound that is irritating to skunks but inaudible to humans.

Place these devices around your yard to create an uncomfortable environment for the skunks. This method is a quiet and non-intrusive way to keep your backyard skunk-free.

Using Light and Noise to Discourage Skunks

Skunks are nocturnal and prefer dark, quiet places. By using light and noise, you can make your yard less appealing to them.

Motion-activated lights or leaving a radio playing softly outside can help deter skunks. The combination of light and sound disrupts their sense of safety and encourages them to move on.

Trapping and Relocation

Legal Considerations

Before you start trapping skunks, it’s important to check your local wildlife regulations. Some areas have specific laws about trapping and relocating wildlife.

Make sure you’re compliant to avoid fines or other legal issues. Always ensure your actions are humane and within the law.

Types of Traps

The best traps for skunks are live traps, which allow you to capture the skunk without harming it.

These traps are designed to close once the skunk enters, safely containing it until you can release it. You can find live traps at most hardware stores or online.

Safe Trapping Techniques

When setting up a trap, place it near the skunk’s den or along its regular path. Bait the trap with foods that skunks love, such as canned fish or peanut butter.

Make sure to check the trap frequently to avoid leaving a skunk confined for too long. Always wear gloves to avoid leaving your scent on the trap.

Proper Relocation Methods

Once you’ve trapped a skunk, you need to relocate it safely. Transport the trap in your vehicle, keeping it covered to calm the skunk.

Release the skunk at least 10 miles away from your home in a suitable habitat. Open the trap from a distance to avoid getting sprayed, and let the skunk leave on its own.

Avoiding Handling Skunks Directly

To prevent getting sprayed or bitten, never handle skunks directly. Use the trap to transport and release the skunk.

Skunks can carry diseases such as rabies, so it’s crucial to minimize contact. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling the trap or any equipment used in the process.

Professional Help

When to Call a Wildlife Removal Expert

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you might still find skunks causing trouble in your yard. That’s when you should consider calling a wildlife removal expert.

If you’ve tried all the DIY methods and skunks keep coming back, or if you’re uncomfortable handling traps and skunks, a professional can help. They have the experience and tools to deal with the problem efficiently and safely.

What to Expect from Professional Services

When you hire a professional, they will assess your situation and develop a plan to remove the skunks. This might involve setting up traps, identifying and sealing entry points, and advising you on preventative measures.

Professionals use humane methods to ensure the skunks are safely relocated without harm. You can expect a thorough and effective approach to your skunk problem.

Costs Associated with Professional Removal

The cost of professional skunk removal can vary based on the extent of the problem and your location. Generally, you might pay anywhere from $100 to $300 for a basic service.

This cost can increase if the problem is severe or requires multiple visits. While it might seem pricey, hiring a professional ensures the job is done right, saving you time and hassle in the long run.

Long-term Solutions

Maintaining a Skunk-Free Environment

To keep your yard skunk-free, you need to maintain a skunk-free environment. This means continuing to secure garbage bins, eliminate food sources, and remove potential shelters.

Regular maintenance of your yard is key. Ensure your trash bins are always sealed, pet food is stored indoors, and any fallen fruit is picked up promptly. Consistency is your best defense.

Regularly Checking for New Signs of Skunks

Even after taking preventative measures, it’s important to regularly check for new signs of skunks. Look for small holes in the ground, tracks, or a lingering smell.

Early detection can prevent a minor issue from becoming a major problem. Make it a habit to inspect your yard regularly, especially around potential hiding spots like under decks and sheds.

Community Efforts and Education on Skunk Prevention

Educating your neighbors about skunk prevention can help keep the entire neighborhood skunk-free. Share tips and information on securing food sources and removing shelters.

Community efforts, like keeping public trash bins secured and maintaining communal areas, can make a big difference. Working together makes it easier to maintain a skunk-free environment for everyone.


Dealing with skunks in your backyard can be a smelly and frustrating experience, but with the right approach, you can keep them away for good.

By understanding what attracts skunks, taking preventative measures, and using humane deterrents, you can protect your yard effectively. If the problem persists, don’t hesitate to call a professional for help.

And remember, maintaining a skunk-free environment requires ongoing effort and community cooperation. By staying vigilant and proactive, you can enjoy a skunk-free yard and peace of mind.


What Should I Do if a Skunk Sprays in My Yard?

If a skunk sprays in your yard, the smell can be overwhelming. Start by ventilating the area. Open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate. For affected surfaces, use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap to neutralize the odor. Avoid using water, as it can make the smell worse. Spraying affected plants with water and a small amount of vinegar can help reduce the odor over time.

Are Skunks Dangerous to Pets?

Skunks can be dangerous to pets, primarily due to their spray and the potential for disease. If a skunk sprays your pet, the odor can cause severe discomfort and temporary blindness. Additionally, skunks can carry rabies and other diseases. If your pet is sprayed or comes into contact with a skunk, thoroughly clean them and contact your veterinarian for further advice.

Can Skunks Carry Diseases?

Yes, skunks can carry diseases such as rabies, leptospirosis, and canine distemper. Rabies is particularly concerning, as it can be transmitted to humans and pets through bites or scratches. Always avoid handling skunks directly, and if you suspect a skunk is acting strangely or aggressively, contact animal control immediately.

How Can I Prevent Skunks from Coming Back After Removal?

To prevent skunks from coming back, maintain a clean and secure yard. Keep garbage bins tightly sealed and remove any potential food sources like pet food or fallen fruit. Seal entry points under decks, sheds, and porches to eliminate shelter options. Regularly check for signs of skunks and act quickly if you notice any. Community education and efforts can also play a big role in keeping skunks away.