It's a Peppy onslaught of LePews
July 9, 2010 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I have skunks in my backyard. What can I do about it? I mean besides running inside and screaming like a nine year old girl.

I've recently moved to a lovely section of Los Feliz in Los Angeles. And I have skunks. A lot of them. At least once a week there is one in my yard when I come home late. I've seen them use my side area along my house as some sort of skunk thoroughfare. And unless my roommates are having plumbing issues, I think they're leaving little piles in the back yard.

So what are my options here? Is there some sort of skunk-away you can spray around the yard? Is there some sort of device that works? Or should I just paint an attractive black cat with a white stripe and put her in a neighbor's yard and hope that my invading skunks think it's ladies night?

I am from NYC and have never dealt with anything other than rats, pigeons and the homeless. I will not be offended if you speak to me about this in very simple terms.
posted by rileyray3000 to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
Call an exterminator. They will trap and relocate the skunks.
posted by briank at 4:21 PM on July 9, 2010

I bet skunks are afraid of something bigger than they, and with pointier teeth...

coyote urine?
posted by chicago2penn at 4:24 PM on July 9, 2010

Here's LA Animal Services on skunks.

And skunks are much more hesitant to spray than you might suppose -- they get used to everyone being so intimidated by them that they don't have to.
posted by Zed at 4:25 PM on July 9, 2010

Organic skunk repellents
posted by Chairboy at 4:26 PM on July 9, 2010

Call an exterminator and be sure that you are not home with open door or window when skunky gets trapped.

You will pay handsomely for the trapping and removal of your ersatz neighbors. And it will be worth every penny.
posted by bilabial at 4:27 PM on July 9, 2010

Someone in your neighborhood is feeding them, either deliberately or accidentally with trash, leaving out cat food, or not cleaning up fallen fruit from a tree or bush.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:30 PM on July 9, 2010

Is it possible to do nothing?

I mean, my understanding is skunks actually don't like to spray. It's their only defense and it takes them a while to build it up. They're not gunning for you. Is this a matter of you want to go bowling in the backyard and you've got a family of skunks there, or is it a matter of a legacy of Warner Brothers cartoons in your head that makes you think of them as stinky little rodent grenades?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:32 PM on July 9, 2010

Oh, but if you startle them, they will spray.

Drop your keys outside?
Shout hello to your neighbor?
Slam a car door?
Neighborhood cat or dog getting feisty?
Slam a screen door?
Cell phone ring at just the right place/time?

Skunks are fine if you see them well in advance and can back off before they get defensive. But they can be easy to miss, tucked into a bush or under a porch. (watched a friend get skunked once bounding onto a porch step. Skunk underneath, person on step. Blammo.)

You are not advised to leave the skunks alone, they will extend no such courtesy.
posted by bilabial at 4:32 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Okay, should have mentioned -- I am a person who has lived with skunks in the carrying garbage out, oh, hey, there's a little stampy skunk type of thing, and surprise appearances in the backyard and so on.

I don't want to make it seem like I've never looked upon a skunk at 11 at night and gone, oh, crap.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:37 PM on July 9, 2010

Running inside and screaming like a nine year old girl sounds like a perfectly reasonable reaction to me. That along with buying a gross of cans of tomato sauce (you bathe in it to kill the odor.).

You do need someone with experience to deal with this, and I'd expect to not be able to use your yard for a week or so afterwards too. Try you local (county, township, city) animal control people first though, this really should be a neighborhood, public issue, and not something you should pay for alone. Yes, I know they aren't any worse than raccoons and opossums, except for the scent thing, but that does mean they do damage even once they are caught.
posted by Some1 at 4:49 PM on July 9, 2010

Do you have any outdoor pets?

If not, I would suggest that you do nothing. 9 times out of 10 the skunks will disappear the moment they become aware of you. The rest of the time they will leave you alone. The chances of getting sprayed without doing something stupid to invite it upon yourself are small, and the consequences of getting sprayed range far closer to annoying than dangerous.

If you do take action, you will be creating an opening in your local ecosystem for something else to move in. What that something else is may be more unpleasant than the skunks you currently have. It could be a raccoon that likes to get into your garbage each night, or an opossum that likes to spend the hours between 2 am and 4 am screeching at the other opossum that is trying to take over its territory.
posted by 517 at 5:01 PM on July 9, 2010

Tomato sauce didn't do any good when I tried. I use the skunk remedy (hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, a bit of dish deterg.)

A family of skunks lives somewhere behind the houses on my block and they always pick the nice, cool evenings to spray and force everyone on the block to close the windows and turn on the a/c.

Find a licensed skunk remover.
posted by bentley at 5:22 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you actually met any nine-year-old girls? They are tough. In fact, I was a camp counselor at a Girl Scout camp where the dumpster attracted many skunks. The girls (many of them Age Nine) just walked past the dumpster at a distance of 15 feet or so. Since the skunks had a defined path from woods to dumpster, it was easy to avoid them. And of course, the girls used the buddy system! Nobody got sprayed during the summer I worked there.
posted by slidell at 6:49 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have a basement or crawl space? I would be concerned about making sure that they can't get into your house.

Skunks aren't entirely harmless. They can carry rabies, as well as a host of parasites that could infect you or any neighborhood cats, dogs, or children which have the misfortune of coming in contact with the skunk poop. Be sure to handle their poops carefully for this reason, and for pity's sake don't go barefoot out there.

The Humane Society has some good advice on the topic. I would contact local Animal Control, who may well refer you to a pest control company.

The science geek in me insists on pointing out that skunks are not rodents.
posted by ErikaB at 7:40 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are in LA? Don't bother trapping them, you'll just get more. LA is lousy with skunks. What you likely have now is a litter of adolescent skunkies and they will move on when momma stops feeding them. This fall go around and stop up any holes under the house to stop her raising more babies there.

Sjunks also really hate noise so playing the radio loud all night for several nights will get rid of them if they're living under your house. Possibly your neighbors would prefer the skunks.
posted by fshgrl at 10:29 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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