It is more likely you will smell a skunk than see one. Persistent, faint musk smells under a building or woodpile may suggest that a skunk has taken up residence. You may find small, shallow holes in the lawn, similar to those made by squirrels, which are a result of a skunk foraging for grubs. Occasionally a skunk will wander into an open garage or shed, a compelling reason to secure all outbuildings.
Occasional skunk sightings in a neighborhood are not a cause for alarm. Because skunks are generally easy-going, they will not intentionally bother people. In fact, skunks may benefit humans by eating many insects and rodents many regard as pests.
Because of the lingering odor, and fear of being sprayed, it may be hard for some people to tolerate skunks living under a deck or old shed. But skunks need such shelter when they are most vulnerable (during the coldest parts of the winter and when raising young). The nocturnal habits of skunks, their unaggressive nature , and the generally beneficial role they play in nature by consuming insects and rodents are all good reasons to leave them alone until they have moved on their own accord (which they readily do) or can safely be harassed away from an area where they are not wanted.
Skunks are attracted to things like garbage and pet food left out at night and convenient denning sites, such as wood and rock piles, elevated sheds, openings under concrete slabs and porches, and access to crawl spaces under houses. Preventive measures, such as removing attractants around houses, will decrease the likelihood of an unpleasant skunk encounter. This includes securing trash, feeding pets indoors, or if fed outdoors, removing food immediately after pets eat.
Even though skunks are mostly active at night, they sometimes look for food by day—particularly in the spring, when they have young and may be extra hungry. Don’t be concerned if you see a skunk in the daytime unless they are also showing abnormal behaviors:
- Limb paralysis
- Boldness or unprovoked aggression
- Disorientation, staggering
- Uncharacteristic tameness
Don’t approach the skunk yourself. Call Loudoun Animal Services at 703-777-0406 if you see a skunk showing any of the above signs.