One of the highest numbers of calls that animal damage control (ADC) trappers receive is for problem skunks. Many home and landowners either do not want to take on the task of removing a skunk, or know how to do it. Here is how you can handle this interesting animal without getting nailed with its fragrant perfume.
The basics when dealing with skunks
Any raccoon-size cage trap is best for ADC skunk trapping. There are many brands on the market, so choose the one that best fits your needs. I prefer to use Tomahawk traps as they will last for years. Another option is a small round cage trap. The size of the trap prevents the skunk from raising its tail. If it is not able to raise its tail, it will not be able to spray.
As for bait and lures, bait manufacturers sell skunk attractants just for ADC work. If you have ever trapped canines for fur, you probably already know they are attracted to the same scents that canines are.
You can use dry cat food, but the problem of catching a cat will be there. Rotten eggs and marshmallows are also both good choices for skunk trapping. I have even caught them using apple slices.
Set your traps wherever you’ve seen the skunks. Most complaints from homeowners are skunks going under decks, sheds, porches, or the like. If you’ve got skunks on the property and they are stealing pet food, harassing pets, or digging lots of little holes all over the lawn, then you can set the trap just about anywhere as long as the animal can smell the bait.
One of the biggest fears that trappers have is being sprayed. Often times you can prevent this. If you are going to get sprayed, it will most likely happen if you have to dispatch the animal. Approach the trapped skunk while holding out a cloth, like an old towel, blanket, or bed sheet. Don’t let the skunk see you.
Gently and slowly approach it and drape the cloth over the trap. If the skunk can’t see, it can’t spray. It won’t spray if it doesn’t know where to spray. Once the cloth is over the cage, it’ll calm down. Even with the skunk covered, keep an eye on its behavior. You can tell if it is thinking about spraying.
Anytime a skunk raises its tail, starts stomping its front feet, or turns around quick with its rear end facing you, things are about to get serious. Leave the skunk be for a while, and come back when it has calmed down.
Young skunks are more apt to spray than adult skunks. The reason is that young skunks do not have a lot of control over their body. It might be an accident, but a young skunk is likely to spray.
Removing the skunks
It is possible to relocate skunks if that is what you choose to do, the law says you can, or the law says you must. With the cloth still draped over the cage, put the skunk in the bed of your truck, and drive the animal at least five miles away to an approved relocation point, if it’s legal to do so in your state. Then open the door and let it out.
Keep in mind that not all states allow you to relocate ADC animals. If that is the case, you need to know how to dispatch a skunk.
From a young age, I was told that a skunk that is shot through the lungs would not spray. So I tried it a few times. Each time I tried, the skunk sprayed. The next time I caught a skunk, I shot it through the head. Again, the skunk sprayed.
I decided that the best location to shoot a skunk is in the head. It does not matter where you shoot it; it is more than likely to let go of its beautiful aroma. One shot to the head, instead of two shots to the body is easier for me to accept.
Always keep the wind direction in mind when dispatching a skunk. If it lets go of its aroma, you don’t want the wind carrying the scent on to you.
Capturing skunks essence
Skunk essence is used in the craft of making trapping lures, and hunters use it for a cover-up scent. The job of removing the essence is not hard. The main tool needed is a hypodermic syringe or a skunk essence extractor kit.
The kit comes with instructions and is available for about $15-$20 from many trapping supply companies. The kit comes with jars to store the essence in. If you will be using a syringe, you will need a clean glass jar to store the liquid in. Also, have plenty of latex gloves close by.
A skunk has two glands on either side of its anus. To extract the essence, begin with the skunk lying on its back. Slightly pull open the skunk’s vent. You will see the tip of the gland with the opening protruding through the wall of the vent.
You can put the needle into the gland right next to the duct, or into the duct opening itself. Be careful not to go too deep, or you will puncture the opposite side.
Slowly pull back the plunger on the syringe to extract the essence. As long as your needle is in the middle of the gland, and has not passed through the other side, the plunger will pull back easy.
When the syringe is full, empty it into a clean bottle. Repeat the process until a white fatty substance starts to come out. When this happens, the gland is empty. Repeat with the other gland.
This process is best completed outside in case something should go wrong.
With your essence stored in a glass jar, I recommend also putting the glass jar into another container with a lid for added protection from the foul odor. Many lure makers purchase the essence, and it should not be a problem finding a buyer with a few phone calls or on social media.
To save your shed from being overpowered by the odor of skunk, there is a simple recipe for cleaning a skunk and removing a lot of the odor. You can either do it at the catch site, or upon returning back to your home or shop.
The cleaning solution calls for three simple ingredients you probably already have at home: one quart of hydrogen peroxide, one cup of baking soda, and a teaspoon of any dish soap.
Pour all the ingredients into a 5-gallon bucket and mix well. Beginning with the tail end of the skunk, dip it into the solution.
Rub the solution into the skunk well, working towards the head. Make sure the solution is worked in well to the entire skunk.
Once the skunk has a good cleaning, pull it out of the bucket, and ring out the fur as best you can. The odor will not be entirely gone, but the biggest portion of it will be gone, and you have an animal that will be easier to work with.
A skunk’s pelt (when prime), and essence are worth good money, and homeowners are willing to pay good money to have one removed. Skunks are an easy catch, and with proper handling and know-how, you stand a good chance at coming away smelling like a rose.
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