As a former zookeeper and co-author of a book on natural pest control for the home and garden, I am often asked about how to deal with bugs and animals that have decided to make our home their home. This spring there have been more questions than usual because of the El Nino ripple effect. More rainfall from El Nino means more plants, and more plants mean more bugs and animals. So this year we will have to deal with be a bumper crop of pests. One pest animal I've received a lot of questions about is skunks.
We are all familiar with the cute black and white stripped animals that are related to weasels and ferrets. They take nightly walks through our yards and leave a dug up lawn or their telltale smell behind. Is there anything you can do to discourage the varmints? You bet.
1. Plug any holes under your fence. Use rocks, bricks or nail a baseboard onto your fence. Skunks are good diggers and may try to dig under your fence anyway. Tacking a strip of chicken wire to the bottom of the fence and burying 6 inches of it into the dirt will really slow down a skunk. Flare the chicken wire out against the ground if you don't want to bury it to make a good seal.
2. If you don't have a fence and the skunks are digging away at your lawn, first realize that the skunks are digging up your lawn to get at worms and grubs in the soil to eat. Spray your lawn with beneficial nematodes (you can buy these at most nurseries) to rid your soil of the grubs and maybe the skunks will leave it alone. While the nematodes are controlling the grubs, lay loose, wobbly pieces of chicken wire along the edges your lawn. Skunks hate walking on unstable ground so make sure the wire sticks up and doesn't lay flat. Tie pieces of chicken wire together with string so the skunks can't get through any pieces. Skunks also can't dig through flat pieces of chicken wire placed over a garden bed or lawn, but this method takes a lot more wire.
3. If you have a good vantage point, a blast of water will send any skunk running. I use my son's water gun that can spray a stream of water up to 100 feet. This weapon provides a silent attack and makes your yard less inviting to the skunk. Skunks hate this, so be careful.
4. Remove any pet food after dark. Pet food left out can really attract skunks and lots of other unwanted critters.
5. Spring is breeding time for skunks, so be sure to close off any holes leading under a porch or a foundation that a skunk might find. They would love to make a home under a nice cool house. Skunks usually have only one litter a year, with the litter averaging five baby "kits". The baby skunks stay with the mother for the first year.
Finally, you have done all of these things and you think you have found the perfect
weapon to repel skunks - the family dog, only to discover the dog now smells like the
skunk. Don't reach for the tomato juice. Instead use this quick and easy
recipe that will have your dog and you
(if you are not so lucky) smelling great in no time and costs a lot less than several bottles of tomato juice.
1 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide (the kind in the drug store for cleaning cuts, etc.); 1/4 cup baking soda; Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent or any liquid detergent that cuts grease. (Skunk spray is very oily.)
Mix the peroxide and baking soda together. Add the dishwashing liquid to the soda and
peroxide until the mixture is the consistency of gravy. Wash your dog with the
mixture. Keep mixture out of the dog's eyes. *Do not save any leftover mixture
because the soda and peroxide combine to
form a gas which could break a container. Leftover mixture can be used to clean the tub and towels.
Janet Hogan Taylor is the co-author of two books with Loren Nancarrow, "Dead Snails Leave No Trails", Ten Speed Press, 1996 and "The Worm Book", Ten Speed Press, 1998. Janet is an entomologist/biologist who writes about various environmental and animal issues.
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