You Aren't Imagining It: EL Has a Bumper Crop of Skunks

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017, 7:37 am
Paige Filice

Photo: Ryan Hodnett

Are there more skunks than normal in East Lansing? Yes, there are; you are not imagining (or smelling) things.

While skunk sightings and smells are more common in late summer, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed that skunk populations, at least for this year, are high. Skunks, like most wildlife, have population cycles that rise and fall depending on food availability and predation. Skunks are solitary and the young leave their mothers in late summer. Given the time of year, there are a lot of young and inexperienced skunks roaming around.

Striped skunks breed in late winter, usually in February and March and give birth to three to six young, called kits, in early spring. Two months after giving birth kits join their mother on nightly excursions and forage for food. Skunks are nocturnal, and if you see a skunk during the day it’s likely a mother foraging for food for her young.

Skunks are beneficial neighbors, eating small rodents, and insects including spiders, grubs and slugs. They tend to leave gardens alone, foraging around plants to eat insects. Unlike squirrels they do not chew or climb. Opportunistic at heart like all wildlife, they are attracted to garbage and pet food left outside. They sleep in dens in wood and rock piles and can be found living under elevated sheds and openings under porches and crawl spaces.

If you see a skunk and escape being sprayed, do not be too surprised. It is harder to get sprayed by a skunk than you would think. Skunks are very near-sighted and you are likely to see them before they see you, and they rarely spray spontaneously.

If a skunk does spot you and it is not immediately surprised, it will give you a few warnings before it sprays. It will stomp its feet and charge back and forth toward you, sometimes on two legs. Its last resort is to spray. Adults can spray up to fifteen feet with accuracy.

To deter skunks from your yard, properly secure garbage in a container with a lid and feed pets indoors. Skunks are expert diggers. Remove wood piles and ensure all sheds and porches are secure to the ground. Skunks love lawn grubs, especially when wet soil pushes grubs close the surface─If you irrigate your lawn, skunks may be a sign that it is overwatered.

If you think a skunk is living under a shed or porch and it is between April and September, assume it is a mother with babies. Mild harassment can be effective in getting rid of a skunk family. Sometimes loosely packing their den hole with leaves or straw can be enough for a skunk to not return. Making loud noises and adding light around their den can also deter them. Other undesirable wildlife may move into the den, so it is important to close off the access point after you have removed the skunk(s).

Professional nuisance wildlife control companies are permitted through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to remove and relocate wildlife and there are many in the East Lansing area. It is illegal to live trap and relocate wildlife anywhere in Michigan without permission from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Lethal traps are also available, but skunks may spray when the trap is sprung.

Always report suspicious wildlife sightings to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources immediately in case the animal is suffering from a disease like rabies. Unusual symptoms include walking in circles, no fear of humans, degraded body condition, and excessive drinking due to fever. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info