The smell of love is in the air! Or maybe that is just a skunk…
On the way to work today I saw three dead skunks in the road. The reason: skunk mating season. These creatures live in underground dens that can be found underneath buildings, porches, brush or lumber piles, or abandoned fox or woodchuck burrows. During winter, skunks remain relatively inactive, although they do not hibernate. The normally nocturnal animals actually will become active during the day as well during mating season which begins in late January. But beware, the males move slower and are more reluctant to flee when threatened during this time, making our chances of getting sprayed greater. The smell you may be noticing during mating season is when the female rejects a suitor, she shows him she is not interested by spraying him.
If your home has become a den for skunk romance, what can you do? Well, if you can stand the smell a little longer, mating season will be over by March. On the down side, you may have to contend with a litter of the little stinkers under your home by May or June. The best solution to managing skunk problems is prevention. Seal off all openings to your foundation with a sturdy mesh wire. This hardware cloth should be buried 12 or 18 inches below the ground, with the bottom 6 inches bent outwards in an L shape to discourage the skunks from digging under it. Make sure there are no skunks in the space you are inclosing. If there are skunks present, attach a piece of one-half inch hardware cloth to the opening. The wire should be larger than the entire entrance and hinged at the top while the other three sides remain loose. This set up will allow the skunk to leave the premise but not get back into their den.
There are a few ways to manage skunks once they are on your property. They are protected under Kentucky law as a fur-bearing animal, however if they are causing damage to your property, you can legally shoot it. Important…You must have a valid Kentucky hunting license to shoot skunks! Using a .22 caliber rifle or shotgun, shoot the skunk just in front of the hind legs, followed by a shot through the brain (unless you are planning to have the animal tested for rabies). Be sure the animal is positioned so if it does spray, the odor will travel downwind. Contact the local conservation officer to dispose of the carcass.
One last method of control is to trap the skunk. Use a live trap and cover it with a tarp to reduce the likelihood of spray. Bait the trap with fish or peanut butter. Once caught, avoid jarring movements while transporting the cage. It is recommended that even caught skunks should be disposed of in a humane way due to the potential for the spread of rabies.