Skunks are well known for being pretty smelly creatures! If they’re surprised or feel threatened, they release a foul-smelling, oily substance from a gland beneath their tail. And you don’t want to be around when they do that!
But are there any odors that skunks themselves dislike? And is there a way to use them to keep skunks away from your property?
That’s what we’ll find out, as we look at the answer to the question, “What smell do skunks hate?”
What Smell Do Skunks Hate?
One of the most widely touted skunk deterrents is citrus fruit. The recommendation is to place the peel of lemons, oranges or limes around the area you want to stop skunks from frequenting. The smell, it’s believed, will put them off.
Cards on the table here: we haven’t been able to find any scientific evidence to back this up. On the other hand, there’s nothing to say it won’t work either! And it’s an easy and cheap method to try out.
2. The Urine of Predators
Skunk spray is an important defense mechanism. It contains substances called thiols which repel predators. But some people believe that the urine of animals that prey on skunks works just as well the other way around.
It’s certainly a theory that makes a lot of sense. Most animals rely on their sense of smell to help alert them to danger. And if a skunk detects the urine of a dangerous animal, it’s logical that they’d beat a retreat.
So what animals do skunks fear? And are there any from which you might conceivably be able to collect some pee?!
Well, not many animals will bother skunks. Those that will include bobcats, foxes, large owls, coyotes and cougars. Good luck collecting any urine from those candidates in the wild!
Dog urine is worth a try – as long as you have a cooperative pet! And if you fancy a DIY method, some people claim human urine will do the job too.
Some types of predator urine can be purchased online, but we wouldn’t recommend them. They’re produced using inhumane methods, and there are better options for repelling skunks.
Ammonia is present in the urine of all animals. Generally speaking, the more concentrated the ammonia, the smellier the urine. Cat pee, for example, is very high in ammonia, which is why it’s so stinky.
So if skunks are deterred by the urine of predators, can the smell of ammonia alone put them off?
Well, it’s certainly suggested as a skunk repellent by a number of different sources. But there are some disadvantages to keep in mind.
First up, it’s very smelly – that’s what’s supposed to deter the skunks. So you won’t want to be spraying it around your home if you want to keep your windows open!
It can also be dangerous. Containers of ammonia can explode if they’re exposed to high temperatures. And if it catches fire, it will release toxic and corrosive gases.
Over time, the smell will be washed away too. So if you do want to try this approach, you’ll need to be ready to reapply the ammonia every so often.
The best way to do this is to use rags dipped in ammonia. Place them in the areas you want to keep skunk-free.
4. Used kitty litter
If you have a cat, placing the contents of their litter tray near where you suspect skunks are living can be very effective. As we’ve seen, cat pee is very high in ammonia. And skunks don’t like the smell any more than we do.
If you use organic litter, it will decompose harmlessly too, without harming the environment.
Mothballs are another potential deterrent that’s often suggested for skunks. Like ammonia, the idea is that the strong smell will overpower the animals’ sensitive olfactory systems. The discomfort, the theory goes, means that they’ll quickly beat a retreat.
The active ingredient in mothballs is a substance called naphthalene. It has a strong smell – but that’s not all. It’s also toxic to the environment.
And if you have pets, this isn’t a great option.
If a cat licks a mothball, they may be sick or have respiratory problems as a result. If they eat one, it can be fatal. And while the effects are less severe in dogs, they’re still unpleasant. And curious pooches are more likely to want to see what one tastes like!
6. Dried valerian root
Some scientific studies have cited the use of dried valerian root to deter skunks. They simply mention that it’s widely used for this purpose, though. We haven’t been able to find any studies that have looked at how effective it is.
Valerian is also used for therapeutic purposes, for example, as a remedy for anxiety and to promote sleep. That means it’s pretty easy to get hold of, with powdered valerian root readily available online and at herbalists.
Take care using it if you have dogs, though. Dogs who ingest valerian can become sleepy. And if they’re taking any other medication, it can interact with it and cause unwanted side effects.
Capsaicin is a chemical in chili peppers and other spicy vegetables. And capsaicin oil is often suggested as a skunk repellent.
You can make your own mild capsaicin oil at home, using chili peppers with acetone, naphtha or white oil.
Just blend the chillis to a pulp and add your chosen solvent. You’ll need a liter of solvent for every kilo of chilis. Leave it to rest for two to three days, then filter the liquid using a sieve or pantyhose.
It’s also possible to buy strong “hot sauce” types of capsaicin preparation. But if you choose one of those, take care when you use it. Other animals or children who come across it by accident could be injured.
8. Other approaches to deterring skunks
Many of these smelly skunk repellents are either of questionable efficacy, or they have serious downsides. So what else can you do to keep skunks away from your property?
Well, if you already have skunks, there are steps you can take to remove them yourself. It takes a certain amount of care and patience, but it can be done. Check out the website of the Humane Society of the United States for advice.
But if this feels too challenging, seek out the services of a professional and humane wildlife removal company.
They’ll be able to assess the situation and set humane traps. And if there are baby skunks, they can remove them alongside their mother, keeping them together. They’ll just be together a long way from your home!
Once they’re gone, there are two key factors to help prevent them returning.
The first is to ensure there’s nothing to attract them to your property. The second is to avoid making it too easy for them to gain access.
Don’t attract skunks
Avoid leaving out anything that could be food for skunks. That means making sure your trash cans are properly secured. Keep bird food, or any other foodstuffs stored in outhouses, in airtight containers.
If you can, avoid feeding pets outdoors too. If that’s not possible, make sure that any food that remains is cleared away after mealtimes.
Skunks feed on grubs and insects, so don’t make it too easy for them. A lawn that’s watered too regularly will become an all-you-can-eat buffet! So resist the temptation to water until it’s really needed.
Make it hard for skunks to gain access
There are a number of different ways you can make it harder for skunks to gain access.
The most obvious is to keep fences and other boundaries in a good state of repair. Adding an L-shaped footer of welded wire around the bottom of your home or deck will help prevent skunks making a den underneath.
And keep the doors to garages and sheds shut. Skunks are nocturnal animals, so that’s particularly important at night.
You can also make the environment less hospitable for any skunks that venture onto your property. Skunks move around in the dark, so a sudden burst of light will startle them. Lights with motion sensors are a good way to give them a shock and send them on their way.
Motion-activated sprinklers can be another effective option. A skunk that finds itself getting an unexpected shower is likely to turn tail.
Place the sprinklers in locations that might otherwise be just that little too appealing to a skunk. Window wells or beneath elevated buildings are prime candidates for den building. Placing sprinklers nearby may be enough to put skunks off the idea of setting up home there.
What smells do skunks hate? A quickfire summary
There are a range of different options for using smelly substances to deter skunks. Ammonia is widely used, and capsaicin oil can be a good option too. And for a cheap and easy approach, you can’t beat some scattered citrus peel.
Combine that approach with keeping your boundaries secure, and avoid leaving out anything that could be food for hungry skunks.
One final word on skunks: it is possible for humans and skunks to co-exist peacefully. They’re gentle creatures, and can be a friend to gardeners, eating lots of insects that are pests to plants. Sometimes, leaving them in peace can be the best solution all round.