Skunks exist throughout America, except in desert areas. There are four types of skunks found in America – the striped skunk, the spotted skunk, the hog-nosed skunk, and the hooded skunk. So can skunks climb fences erected to keep them out? The answer may very well depend on their species, as their climbing abilities vary.
Most Common Skunk Species
Before we dive into how to keep skunks from coming into your yard, let’s take a close look at each of the four most common American skunk species.
These are black with big white stripes on their nose (called a snout) and a V-neck mark on their back. They are the biggest skunk and can weigh up to 14 pounds. The striped skunk is not a good climber. It has very long nails, which make it difficult for it to grasp onto things. It will occasionally climb a fence but can climb trees to the height of a chimney or attic.
There are two types of spotted skunks – eastern and western. Eastern spotted skunks have broken white stripes along their back and a black tip to the tail. Their tail is shorter than other skunks. Western spotted skunks have broad white stripes on their back and a white tip to their tails. These skunks, which are much smaller and faster than striped skunks, can climb down trees head-first, with eastern spotted skunks being more of a climbing animal than the western type.
These are relatively large skunks, weighing between 2 to 6 pounds. They have a single broad white stripe from nose to tail. With long claws and snouts, they are more diggers than climbers.
These have tufts of fur around their necks. Some have two thin white stripes along their back and tail. Others have one single thick white stripe and a split, white tail. They are often mistaken for striped skunks, but their tail is longer and their fur softer. They rarely climb anything as they are mostly ground dwellers.
What Is The Best Fence To Keep Skunks Out?
While not all types of skunks are fence climbers, those that do can be a nuisance. When they want to get into somewhere, they will be quite relentless in their attempts. Their sharp, powerful claws mean they can climb wooden fences, chain-link fences, or many other fences with ease. These animals will often climb low fences and use trees and branches to enter roofs or yards.
The best fence to keep them out of your yard is a solid metal fence, about 2 feet tall. The smooth material will prevent the skunk from digging its long claws into your fence, so it will not be able to climb it. This will be more expensive than a wood fence but may resolve a skunk problem. It should also keep any opossums out – these animals are excellent climbers. If you do not use a metal fence, keep your wood or chain link fence in good repair.
Even if they do not climb, skunks are excellent diggers. Their claws are very powerful and long, and they have sharp teeth. They are adept at burrowing underground and get into your yard, or under or in your house that way. Fences need to reach deep enough into the ground to prevent them from digging underneath it. They should be between 1 and 2 feet below ground level.
How Can I Prevent Skunks From Getting Onto My Property?
While skunks can often be beneficial in your yard, as they feed on harmful pests, many people do not want them there because they can emit a foul smell, can carry disease, and cause damage by digging and burrowing. Skunks can often be found living in sheds, garages, porches, and houses, or under buildings. They will also make dens in tree holes, under tree stumps, fallen logs, rock piles, and woodpiles.
They are scavengers and being omnivorous, will attempt to take whatever food they can, including rodents, birds, insects, birdseed, pet food, vegetables from your vegetable patch, chickens, or eggs from your coop, or household garbage. Their digging can leave holes in your lawn. As nocturnal animals, skunks move around each night and can leave a lot of holes in your garden, with holes being about 1 to 3 inches in diameter and depth.
To minimize the risk of skunks inhabiting your property, make it as unappealing for skunks as possible. Skunks will climb fences or trees or, more often, burrow to get into your property because they are attracted to something there.
- Clean up your yard. Get rid of unwanted lumber, rockpiles, fence posts, tree stumps, and anything else a skunk might find appealing as a place to live in. Repair any holes in your deck, or foundations.
- Do not leave any pet food outdoors. This will minimize the rodent population and the skunks which like to eat rodents. Hang up bird feeders so skunks cannot get to them. Pick produce from your vegetable garden or fruit trees as soon as it is ready.
- Regularly clean up fallen fruit, nuts, berries, branches, and leaves because these harbor insects which skunks like.
- Keep all trash in cans with tight-fitting, locking lids.
- Fill any animal burrows and holes to reduce the chances of a skunk settling in there.
- Close up entries to your garden and house using mesh fencing, metal flashing, sturdy barriers, boards, and hardware cloth. Cut branches that are close to your home.
- Skunks are nocturnal and are sensitive to light. You could put in night lights around your property to deter them. Skunks are also sensitive to sound, but keeping music on all night is likely to upset your neighbors, so this might only work if you live on an isolated property.
- You can also use a skunk repellent. There are both liquid and granular repellents or an electronic one that sprays water at the skunk if it comes within a certain distance.
- If you find a skunk in your house or garage, close all doors but one, which the skunk can use as an exit point. Do not use food to try to remove the skunk as it will then link food to your house and keep returning in the hope of getting more.
If the animal will not leave your property, you will need to call a wildlife removal company to do the job professionally. If you decide to trap the skunk, get advice on how to do this first. Be aware that trapping a skunk yourself does not always work. It can be stressful to try this on your own, particularly because of the risk of being sprayed by the skunk.
You may find either the skunk will return if you do not remove to an appropriate location where it has adequate food and shelter, or new ones will come in. Make sure you familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations about trapping and relocating this type of wildlife in your area before trapping the skunk. Some States make trapping wildlife illegal.