Why are Skunks so Common Now?

Even just five or so years ago, it seemed rare to see a skunk wandering around my residential neighborhood—almost unheard of ten years ago. Usually I’d see them at dusk while camping or walking around the state park, but not in my neighbor’s yard. What happened?

Dog nose to nose with a skunk
Dog and skunk
  • A rabies epidemic in the 1980s and 90’s had killed many skunks in the Chicago area, and now their population is rebounding. Skunks are the main carrier of rabies in the Midwest.
  • Few natural predators prey on skunks. Only the grey-horned owl and red-tailed hawks actively prey on them, while coyotes and foxes eat them. Most of these predators are rare in my area.
    • Cars are the chief predator of skunks and their population is measured by road kill counts.
  • Used to humans. Skunks know we fear their smell and can come within 20+ feet before feeling threatened. This is why they we see them so often.
    • Skunks that are sick from rabies can act bolder or aggressive. Beware of any skunk acting strangely or out during the day—it may be rabid.
    • Time of year—late summer and early fall is when I see them the most. This is when young skunks are venturing away from their mothers. Skunks are out during mating season in late winter. They do not hibernate, but slow down and are inactive (torpor) in their dens during the winter. They may emerge on warm winter nights.
  • Availability of the following—so clean your yard and secure your property.
    • Food—skunks are omnivores and eat a variety of food, including the trash left in your yard or garbage can. They prey on beetles, grasshoppers, grubs and worms, plus bird eggs, small rodents and frogs, but will also dine on fruits, berries and mushrooms. Often they are seen under fruit trees or digging in lawns and gardens. Small holes in your lawn can be from skunks digging for grubs.
    • Shelter—skunks like to make dens in tree hollows, brush or wood piles, and underneath porches and sheds.
    • Source of water within two miles of their den.

Do skunks always spray?

Skunks spray as a last defense. They may growl, spit, fluff their fur or shake their tail. Usually the tail shake is what catches my attention with the flash of white in the darkness. If the intruder (your dog) doesn’t leave, then it will lift its tail and spray its powerful odor.

Almost all of my dogs have had very close encounters with only one spray occurrence. Most of the time I’ve realized the critter was a skunk and ordered my dog back, and fortunately, they listened and avoided the spray. Buffy was on a 15-foot retractable leash and yanked out of range before it sprayed. The spray range for skunks is about ten feet.

The only occurrence of spray was in my yard when a skunk sprayed the fence and Chipper was close enough to get some spray on his face, which he immediately rubbed on Buffy.

How to bathe your dog

Don’t let him in the house or rub against you or another dog or you will have more cleaning to do!

Forget the tomato juice; instead use the following—it really works!

  1. Dawn Dish Washing Liquid
    2. Hydrogen Peroxide
    3. Baking Soda
  • Mix 1 – 2 ounces of dawn dish soap with a gallon of water.
  • Add 1 ounce of hydrogen peroxide (per gallon)
  • Add 1/4 cup of baking soda.
  • Mix these items well in a bucket
  • Once you wash the dog with this solution, give him a regular bath.

Check my blog on bath at dogs and skunks–how to prevent the stink.

Skunk diseases

Most of us dread skunks because of the stink and having to bathe our dogs. But here are more reasons to keep your dog away. They carry many diseases, such as:

  • Rabies – beware of skunks out during the day, skunks acting aggressive, having an unsteady gait, drooling or foaming at the mouth.
  • Leptospirosis
  • Canine distemper
  • Canine hepatitis
  • Roundworms

Has your dog encountered a skunk lately? Please comment below and sign up for future posts by email.

Read more at:

Skunk Facts

That Stinks: Chicago Suburb Battles Feisty Skunk Population

Skunks: Why Are There So Many?

Why You Are Smelling Skunks This Week

Photo by Dreamstime

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29 thoughts on “Why are Skunks so Common Now?

  1. Many years ago when I was in college, my dog was sprayed by a skunk. We tried tomato juice and that helped some, but she was stinky for a while.

    We used to have skunks in our area but haven’t seen (or smelled) any in a while. I’m not sure if they moved out or were eaten by the foxes we had a few years ago. The foxes have also moved on. We had a raccoon and her 4 babies living in a tree in our front yard earlier this summer.

  2. We’ve had more skunks, woodchucks, and opossums here now that I live in a small city than when I lived out in the country! Go figure! You would think with five, four now, Huskies in the yard, they would stay away. Nope! And oh, what mayhem when they spot a critter in “their” yard! Just had a woodchuck incident here last week. One year, we did have a rabid skunk and a rabid raccoon once, and that was scary! This was a great and informative post, and thanks for sharing the de-skunking shampoo recipe. Always good to have on hand, just in case! Pinning this to my “Bark About” board, too!

  3. OK, I think skinks are one of the cutest animals in the forest and I hate that people are so terrified of them. 🙂 Then again, I don’t expect anyone to go pursue one out in the wild or anything (for all the reasons you state). But I did know that they are docile animals and don’t like to spray unless they are cornered. I’ve seen my share of them where I live (once only a few feet from me on the side of a road), but I just walk on by and try not to make a fuss. My husband is terrified, in contrast, that any skunk he sees, even a football field away, will see him and somehow charge and spray him for no reason. I don’t get it! And, no, my dogs have not ever been sprayed, thankfully!

  4. I know for a fact that skunks don’t always spray. Twice Jasmine found one and was trying to entice it to play and she DID NOT get sprayed. Now that’s called charm!

    We haven’t seen any increase in population around here.

  5. Thanks for mentioning rabies as a potential problem in addition to being sprayed. My son was bitten by a raccoon a few years ago and the rabies shots were expensive and painful. He learned a valuable lesson about not handling wild animals!

  6. My dog has been repeatedly sprayed. He just can’t resist nose-poking that raised tail! LOL! And one summer, I had to stock up on the de-skunking ingredients, when he brought home the stink no less than 4 times within a two month period. Ew!

  7. I know all too well about skunks and where they like to burrow/live! We kept smelling that skunky smell in the early mornings and soon found out that they had burrowed under our garden shed! There was no way for us to remove them. We even contacted a company, but there is never a guarantee they won’t come back. We actually had to remove our shed and found that a skunk and it’s family must have been living there for quite some time! They had dug a couple of feet under the entire shed!

  8. Thanks for the useful information! I live on the suburbs and there are some skunks that find their way from the woods not too far away from my house. Always have to keep on the lookout!

  9. Thankfully we don’t see a lot of skunks in our area. I guess this is a good and a bad thing. It’s good for convenience (me and my dogs not getting sprayed) and less chance of them spreading rabies. It’s also a sign of how humans are disrupting the natural order of things… the food chain, the ecosystems where we live. Any time there are obviously way too many or too few of any wild animal, it’s pretty much our fault. We’re overrun with rabbits where we live. Why? Because all of their predators have ben run out by construction and humans or killed if they wander into a neighborhood. AC will come kill a coyote, but the bunnies get to run free.

    Great tips on dealing with skunks if you have them. Sadly, I haven’t seen even one in a really long time.

    • I wish we had a few rabbits – we have none. I saw a rabbit the day I moved into my house and not one after that. Not just my yard, but the whole neighborhood. Maybe it’s the stray cats that get them. We have a lot of squirrels though.

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