The Utica/Rome area of central NY seems to have a large and healthy population of skunks this year. Sadly many are seen hit by car along roadsides but they are being spotted regularly checking out trash, raiding gardens and zipping into open garages.
In general, skunks do little harm. While they may carry rabies, they tend to try and avoid pets and people so they really aren’t much of a risk for rabies spread. If you do see a skunk acting abnormally stay away and keep your pets away.
Skunks like to eat slugs, snails and many bugs so they are helpful to many gardeners. The large numbers of golden snails and slugs may be attracting skunks to the central NY area. There are some precautions you should take around skunks and ways to deal with them safely.
Do not leave food out for pets or feral cats. Feeding any wildlife is a bad idea as the wildlife become accustomed to people and usually end up in bad situations. Skunks love cat food and will definitely show up sooner or later if you leave it out. Close up sheds, barns and garages at night to prevent skunks from moving in. Check the siding on any decks – skunks will often move in under your deck. It is cool down there, generally has soft dirt to dig for grubs and it is quiet.
Peppermint essential oil is said to be an excellent skunk repellant. Placing drops of this oil around areas where skunks have been seen may keep them away.
If you have a real “skunk invasion” you should consult with the DEC. The Utica/Rome Oneida County area is in Region 6. The contact numbers for general information are 315-793-2554 for Utica and 315-866-6330 for Herkimer. There are rules regarding trapping and releasing wildlife.
If your pet should get “skunked” forget the old tomato juice baths. The new recipe is much more effective, though if your dog gets damp you may pick up a slight odor for a couple of days afterwards. Mix 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and one to two tsps liquid dish soap. Dawn comes highly recommended. The mixture is a bit volatile so do not put it in a closed container. It will also not stay effective, so dump any that you do not use and don’t try to store it.
Pour this over and rub it into your dog’s coat. Take care to keep it out of his eyes, mouth and ears. Work it deeply into the coat and leave it on for five minutes. Then rinse thoroughly.