Kathleen’s tale of skunk eviction from her hens’ laying boxes (“Home & Heart: Surprise, Surprise, Surprise” in HP155) is all too familiar to us. Though we have little more than an acre of land, it is an island of biodiversity surrounded by farms. Consequently, every year finds us trying to evict families of badgers and raccoons while there is still something left of our gardens. Like Kathleen, we make use of live traps for critter abatement, and while we never try to trap skunks, invariably, at least one blunders into a trap each year.
I like her forethought (pre-bagging the trap) when trying to trap a skunk. In our case, since we are not trying to catch the little stinkpots, it is already too late to bag the trap. Instead, my husband holds up a large, black plastic sheet so that he can’t be seen by the skunk, then inches toward the trap until he can very slowly drape the plastic over the entire trap. Then, he can grip the handle through the plastic sheet and load the wrapped trap very gently into the back of a pickup truck.
The solution to getting a skunk to leave a space is simple, and could have been used to evict Kathleen’s from the hens’ nesting boxes instead of using a live trap. Get an inexpensive radio with really good volume and an on-off switch separate from the volume knob. Tune the radio to the most obnoxiously loud music station you can find and crank up the volume, then switch it off. Place the radio as close as possible to the location of the skunk’s head and turn it on, then get out of the skunk’s path. You don’t even have to put the radio in the space with the skunk, unless it is surrounded by acoustical insulation like straw bales.
In the case of the wooden hen boxes, leaning it against the wood box helps by transmitting the vibrations through the whole box structure like a drum. If the critter is in a comfy, dark space, you can give additional incentive by dropping a very bright flashlight into the space before you turn on the radio. The skunk should be gone within a few minutes of this treatment, but be sure that you see where he exits so that you can close up his entry hole immediately. Here’s to “Whew!”, not “Pe-yew!”
Christina Snyder • Manchester, Michigan
Sometimes I feel like trapping is my first profession. When any of the myriad of varmints in our little bit of paradise shows up at the hen house, we trap them. The attraction of such an easy source of protein is enough to keep any varmint coming back for more. We could not just scare the skunk away. Everybody likes chicken and eggs and laying mash and a comfy, warm, dry place to sleep. I like the idea of a concealing shield of plastic and have tucked away that nugget of good sense for when I may need it.
I once came upon a skunk in a garbage can of cat chow when feeding a neighbor’s cats. I put the garbage can lid back on and got Bob-O. We loaded the closed garbage can into the back of my old Subaru wagon. We hadn’t gone a half-mile before the skunk sprayed inside the can. We came to a screeching halt. We both jumped out, opened the hatch, grabbed the can and holding our breath, ran it out into a field. Bob-O whipped off the lid and kicked the can over. Again, we ran. I came back the next day to get the empty garbage can. Lots of Pepé Le Pew jokes after that.
Kathleen Jarschke-Schultze • “Home & Heart” columnist