Skunks in Ohio – Information and Facts
Skunks are members of the weasel family. There are four species in North America. Striped skunks are the most abundant of the four species. Spotted skunks are more weasel-like. Hooded and Hognose are the other two.
Striped skunks are the only skunk found in Cleveland, Ohio. Prominent lateral white stripes run down their back. Otherwise, they are jet black. Striped skunks are about the size of an ordinary house cat. They are 20 to 29 inches long including a 7 to 15 inch tail. Weighing in around eight pounds.
Skunks have short stocky legs and big claw feet. This makes them great at digging.
Skunks are quiet. Young skunks are more vocal especially when they play. You may hear feet stomping, teeth clicking, hissing, grunts, growls, squeals, and screeches.
Adult skunks begin breeding in late February. Year old females’ mate in late March. Gestation lasts 7 to 10 weeks. Older females bear young during the first part of May. Yearlings bear young in early June. There is only one litter per year. Litters consist of 3-5 young. Smaller females have smaller litters than older and larger females.
The young stay with an adult female until fall. Male skunks will kill the young. So, they leave the family. Kids forage with her mother when they are 7 weeks old. They are independent at 3 months. And disperse in the fall. Both sexes mature by the following spring.
Pet skunks live about 10 years. Few live beyond 3 years in the wild.
The normal home range of a skunk is half to two miles in diameter. During the breeding season a male may travel four to five miles each night. You cannot release trapped skunks unless it is on your property. You must euthanize them.
Skunks are not true hibernators. When the ground freezes, they den up. Male activity continues until temperatures drop to 15° f. They are dormant for close to one month during the coldest part of winter. This is a state of torpor. Skunks may lose up to 38% of their body weight during winter. They will emerge during warm spells and during the mating season.
Skunks den alone or in a group of two to seven females and one male. They may den together like this in winter for warmth. Consider them solitary. Except for when females are with their dependent young, or in winter. They are nocturnal, slow moving with an effective way to defend themselves. Predators cause less than 5% of skunk deaths. The great horned owl is their main predator. Odor is not always a reliable indicator of skunks. Animals, like owls, that have been sprayed by skunks might make you think skunks are present.
They like to live along the edges of forests and fields near water. Their favorite place to call home are dead/ dying trees that remain upright. They have adapted very well to suburban environments though. Structures with enclosed spaces greater than four inches in height are attractive. Especially if it is protected from rain and sunlight. Under concrete steps, porches with a solid skirting, under sheds and in piles of debris are high value realty.
Stone foundations with dirt floor crawl spaces are vulnerable to skunks. You find this home construction in the Ohio City Neighborhood of Cleveland, OH. You will find a half circle depression below the building’s wall. Dug out entry holes are 3 to 5 in in diameter. Juvenile skunks will make even smaller holes often 1 to 2 in in size. They also use old woodchuck holes. You may not be able to find the entrance with raised structures (like decks without a skirting). However, skunks will usually enter and exit in the most remote or secluded part of the structure. Keep in mind that if the gap is greater than 4 inches, it is more likely that predators will come knocking at their door. If you can crawl under it, skunks should not be living there. When looking for entry holes, search for hair stuck to the wood. If it is black and white, you have found skunk hair. They can climb trees to access hollow limbs. In general, do not consider them as climbers though. Around the house, look for entry at ground level.
One good thing about skunks is that they do not damage structures. That is why we can use one-way doors, instead of trapping them. They will not rip apart your house trying to get back into their den when we block them out. Woodchucks will though!
One thing a skunk does, is change the smell of your house. And this occurs before you call our exterminators. A skunk will not be inside your fully concreted basement. If it smells in the basement, take a look outside to see if they got caught in a window well. Or sniff under your deck or porch. Sometimes they’ll dig a hole in the window well soil, so you will only see the hole and not the skunk itself. Other times, they will fall into a window well while hunting toads. This is common. So, make sure your window wells have covers on them.
When a skunk becomes trapped inside a structure, look for signs around the walls, about 1 to 2 ft high. For skunks trapped in window wells, put a board in it. This must be a shallow angle less than 45° for it to work. Give them traction by nailing a couple boards to the board. Unfortunately, most window wells are too small for this technique. So, call the animal warden to fetch it with their catch pole. Best idea is to place a cardboard box in the well. And guide the skunk into it using a long stick. You should be able to remove the skunk without getting sprayed. Remember that skunks need to conserve their spray for life and death situations. Remain calm, quiet, and move slow.
For our company, skunk calls peak in February- March when they are mating. In May and June, skunks will be feeding on grubs and worms in your yard. You may notice damage to your lawn at this time. This picks up again in late July continuing through mid-October.
Watch out for rabid skunks that are out during the day. You will see healthy mothers out during the day if their young are stressing them out though. Call the animal warden if you notice a skunk out during the day.
Damage to Lawns
Skunks make funnel-shaped holes in your grass. Holes are 3 to 4 inches in diameter, and 1 to 2 inches deep. They call this grubbing for insect larvae. This can also be for earthworms though. Damage usually stops after 3 weeks once the food is gone. Raccoons damage lawns too. They tend to roll the turf more than cause small funnels in the turf. You can tell the difference from squirrel and skunk damage by timing. Skunk damage occurs in spring and fall. Squirrel damage will occur in fall and throughout winter. Squirrels move soil to one side. Many other animals, including domestic dogs, dig in lawns.
Other Signs of Feeding
Skunks can raid the chicken coup. In this instance, skunks kill one or two hens on site. Eggs are crushed at one end, with shelf fragments pushed inside.
Likewise, skunks may damage beehives by attempting to feed on bees. Occasionally, they feed on corn eating only the lower ears. Sometimes, they get into your left out garbage.
Like raccoons, they are true omnivores. If they can get in their mouth around it, they will eat it. Skunks consume mostly insects and other invertebrates, birds, and bird eggs. Skunks love grubs. They will also eat bird seed and mice. Easy prey are grasshoppers beetles and crickets. They will eat a lot of other things too. They might even raid your vegetable garden. A clever way to not have them in your yard is to remove their food source. Treat grubs in mid-April through mid-May. The best time to treat for grubs in Cleveland, OH is July to mid-September. Stop feeding the birds. Perform rodent control. You can get on our exterior rodent bait station program.
Skunks’ diet changes seasonally. Skunks eat plants and animals in about equal amounts during fall and winter. Once insects come out in spring, they feast on those through summer. Mice are important parts of their diet in winter. They eat rats and tiny rabbits when other food is scarce.
Other Ways To Identify Skunks
Skunk tracks are small relative to body size. You will find five toes on all feet. And smooth continuous palm pads, with long front nails. In some tracks, the fifth toe may not be obvious. Claw marks are usually visible, but the heels of the front feet normally are not. Hind feet tracks are about two and a half inches long.
Scat includes mostly insect exoskeletons. Look for it to be slightly curved. It might have seeds in it too. Droppings are quarter inch to half inch in diameter and 1 to 2 inches long. Scat is not the best identifier of skunks.
Skunks carry rabies on occasion. Avoid any overly aggressive animal that approaches without hesitation. This is also something to report to the animal warden.
Teenage skunks are more prone to spraying than older ones. Young skunks are not mature enough to have control of the spray muscles. So, some leaks out as they walk. Skunks discharge the nauseating musk from their anal glands. And they’re capable of several discharges. Although, skunks would rather save their spray for extreme danger. This is because it can take time to replenish the fluid.
You can detect skunk spray from a mile away. So do not rely on odor to tell you much. Possums also admit a skunk-like odor. And remember, a sprayed animal can trick you into thinking there are skunks on your property. Sprayed dogs and cats will retreat underneath decks and porches. Skunk odor that persists with varying degrees of intensity, tells you there is a dead skunk. You might need a skunk exterminator to use a pole hook to pull the carcass out of a confined space.
Most spraying occurs when females fight off males during breeding season. Another popular time for skunks to be spraying is in June when the young begin practicing. Skunks can spray once they are two to four weeks old. Their one ounce of fluid is enough for 5 to 6 sprays, then need a day to recharge. Older skunks learn not to leave themselves defenseless by using all their spray. Ohio striped skunks spray well from a 10-foot distance. They only spray when approached or directly threatened.
Skunks will travel along your foundation plantings. That is when pets will encounter them. Give them their space do not approach them. Watch territorial dogs if you let them out at night. They will give you a warning signal before spraying. Skunks stomping their feet and lifting their tail in the air is a sign to calmly remove yourself ASAP. They turn to face the aggressor, arch their backs, raise their tails, stamp the ground, and shuffle backwards. Then just before spraying, they bend into a u shape so their head and tail faces the target.
Skunk Fest And Skunk Removal In Cleveland, Ohio
North Ridgeville, Ohio holds an annual community event, Skunk Fest. Skunk Haven is a non-profit group that is puts it on. It is wonderful.
If you want to celebrate them, or find one for a pet, seek them out. If you need help ridding your home of them, let Lakewood Exterminating help.