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Out, Out Darned Skunk!
by Tom Mugridge

Q:: Is there anyway to keep skunks out of your garden other than fencing? I have fencing partly and partly a wall but somehow they get in anyway. Any suggestions?
Thank you,

A:Sorry, George, but the only (legal) way I know to preclude skunks from your garden is with a physical barrier of some sort. I've heard of using mothballs or pans of ammonia (supposedly the smell is as unpleasant to them as theirs is to us), but I can't swear to their effectiveness.

Actually, skunks are good at eating garden pests like moles and grubs, and they're extremely good "mousers", too (don't tell this to any cat-lovers you know - they may not like it). Unfortunately, they may also help themselves to some of your veggies, sort of as the salad to their main meal.

A stone wall may work if it's deep enough and/or wide enough to keep them from burrowing beneath. You can also use hardware cloth or chicken wire. If you use some sort of fencing material, the bottom should be dug down at least 6" below ground level and 6" outward, so that it's "L-shaped".

This will help thwart their digging efforts (if they dig at the edge of the fencing, they'll encounter the horizontal portion). Make sure the top of whatever barrier you choose is high enough to keep them from climbing over, too.

You can also discourage skunks by removing other things that may attract them to the yard: woodpiles, stacks of brush, or other places of possible shelter. If you have any outdoor pets, don't leave the food dishes outside, at least not overnight - skunks like dog and cat food, too.

Take away longer-term shelter by sealing up any openings in or around structures. Make sure you don't trap a skunk inside when doing this - if you do, quite unpleasant aromas will occur afterward.

You may also try using bright light. Hearing human voices sometimes frightens them, so playing "talk radio" may scare them off (I'll let you decide which radio show to use).

Playing music may work similarly. Don't play soothing music, like Mozart, but something a bit more "unnerving" (again, I'll let you choose what to use). Avoid pieces with a lot of bass drum action, like the 1812 Overture - this may actually scare them into spraying. And of course, make sure none of this bothers your neighbors!

If all else fails, trapping may be your remaining option. Many cities will assist residents by providing traps. If worse comes to worse, and the skunks really are a problem, you can call in a professional.

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Tom Mugridge

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