By Robert Lucke
If you have ever had two skunks get into a fight right under the bedroom of a cabin you are staying in for the night, you know there is probably no smell any worse or more penetrating than when a skunk sprays close by. Or if your dog has ever gone one on one with a skunk, probably you wish there were no more skunks. Ever.
However, skunks do have a good side and like most everything else, there is someone who will tell their story.
In this case it is the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks that has a free pamphlet just chuck-full of advice on how to happily coexist with a skunk family nearby.
First, there is the good that skunks do.
"Skunks are excellent mousers,' and may be even better at it than cats. They eat many mice, rats, other small rodents, grubs, and a variety of insects. They will also take the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds. There are many instances of skunks living in close contact with humans under sheds, decks, and even in garages, without ever spraying their human hosts. Skunks are generally shy, nonagressive, retiring and nocturnal creatures. With a little acceptance and understanding, you can live with skunks if you do not unduly alarm them. However, there are many instances, especially where you have pets or young children, where this may not be possible."
The best of all ways to live with skunks is to discourage them, FWP goes on to say. Don't leave garbage, dog food or cat food outside, and clean up old piles of lumber and brush where skunks may want to live. Board up entrances to crawl spaces under the house or outbuildings. Chicken wire can be used to halt skunks from getting under a house or outbuilding, but be sure that it is buried at least 6 inches underground and folded out underground another 6 inches. This will prevent skunks from digging their way in.
Mild harassment also works at times.
"Leave repellents such as ammonia-soaked rags or mothballs in burrows or where skunks have to pass to go in and out of their dens. It has even been suggested that leaving a light on under a shed or deck utilized by a skunk may make it move. Here's a repellent from Jerry Baker, Master Gardener's radio talk show: Mix 8 oz. Murphy's oil soap with 4 oz. of castor oil and 1 oz. of human urine in 1 gallon of water."
Catching a skunk can be relatively easy to do. Many Fish, Wildlife and Parks offices have live traps they will loan you.
And if all else fails and both you and the dog get sprayed, here is a remedy that really works Dr. Wood's formula: 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1 cup of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of liquid soap. While the mixture is bubbling, wash the affected area, and then rinse off with water. Repeat as needed.