Skunks and raccoons often wreak havoc in urban gardens by digging holes, destroying crops, tipping over trash cans, foraging in garbage, tearing shingles and even setting up home inside. Skunks and raccoons typically den beneath buildings, porches, decks and woodpiles or in attics, barns, sheds, sewers and uncapped chimneys. These nocturnal animals also carry several bacterial diseases and parasites, including rabies. If a skunk or raccoon is being a nuisance on your property, you will want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. But in most states it is illegal to poison skunks and raccoons, so you must try other methods to eliminate the pest.
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Most states have no registered toxicants for skunks or raccoons, so use other methods to get rid of them. Exclude them by sealing off all foundation openings, burying fencing, closing all doors at night and using tight-fitting garbage can lids. Use box or leghold traps or fumigate burrows with gas or smoke cartridges.
The spotted skunk is fully protected in some states, while striped skunks are not usually protected. Most states protect raccoons, so you can only hunt or trap them at certain times of the year. However, most states allow control of furbearers that are damaging property. Legal status and licensing requirements vary by state, so always check with your state wildlife officials before exercising any control methods for skunks or raccoons.
Try Exclusion First
The best way to keep skunks and raccoons away from your property is to exclude them. Seal all foundation openings and ground-level openings in sheds, barns or poultry buildings with boards, hardware cloth or metal flashing. Keep all doors firmly closed at night. Cover all openings with sheet metal, wire mesh or concrete and erect wire mesh fencing around poultry yards, coops and window wells. Use tight-fitting lids on all garbage cans, using a wire or clamp if necessary and store them inside a garage or shed overnight if possible. Close dumpster lids at night. Fit a heavy duty, commercial grade chimney cap over the top of a chimney.
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Other Control Methods
There are no registered toxicants for poisoning skunks or raccoons, so poison baits sold for rodent control shot not be used. Illegal poisoning may accidentally hurt someone's pet, and the penalty for pesticide misuse can be substantial. Some states have commercial products registered as skunk repellents, but home remedies may work just as well. For example, an ammonia-soaked rag may drive skunks out from underneath buildings, although this should not be used under an occupied building due to the risk of fumes. A home remedy to repel raccoons from garbage cans is a weak solution of cayenne pepper in water, applied to the outside of the can.
A radio or other loud noises or strobe lights may scare skunks and raccoons away from your property, but these are usually only temporary solutions.
Keep your garden and the area around your building clean and free from debris like lumber and old car parts, where skunks and rodents may shelter. Get rid of all garbage and food sources that will attract the creatures. Eliminate all rodents living in barns, garages and crawl spaces, using the appropriate recommended methods, as these often attract skunks.
Trapping and Shooting
As a last resort, you may trap a skunk or raccoon on your own property that causes damage to your crops or pets. Some states, such as Washington, have no trapping permit requirements for live traps, but a trapping permit may be required for traps other than live traps, while other states require an animal removal permit. In Illinois, raccoons should be live-trapped in a Tomahawk trap or similar. Bait the trap with cat food or sardines, and in the early evening, put it in the area frequented by the raccoon. Check the trap early the next morning, and if it is empty, close it until the early evening to avoid trapping pets and other animals. When you trap a raccoon in Illinois you must release it on the same property within 100 yards of where it was trapped, take it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or euthanize it. The animal removal permit dictates the appropriate outcome, depending on your case. In some states, you can shoot skunks caught in leghold traps in rural areas.