9 Best Steps How to Stop Skunks From Digging Up Lawn

Skunks have a knack for turning up at just the ‘right time’.

You just spent the day getting your lawn in good condition. The next morning you wake up to patches and claw marks throughout your yard!

I think we’ve all experienced that deep sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Where to begin and wondering how to stop skunks from digging up our lawn?

The truth is:

There is always hope and a successful way of keeping these furry critters under wraps.

Whether you’re new or experienced in the art of skunk-proofing, there’s always an effective trick up the sleeve to try out.

So keep reading my fellow-gardeners.

Let’s look at how best to stop skunks from digging up your precious lawn.

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How to Tell if Skunks are Causing the Issue?

skunk has been digging up the lawn

Skunks have a unique set of characteristics that are easy to identify.

They are highly adaptable and known as great opportunists.

It is often worthwhile looking into an animal’s unique biology, habits, and habitat, to help one understand them a little better.

Skunks are primarily nocturnal creatures, while some are crepuscular (a fancy word for being active at twilight).

These cute, yet annoying creatures are omnivorous and can shift their diet according to each season. In winter they mainly eat mice, while in summer and spring they prefer insects, plants, and other small animals.

Their favorite food items are grubs, worms, beetles, grasshoppers, bird eggs, rodents, frogs, berries, and mushrooms.

As they forage for some of these items in your lawn or garden beds, you will always come across the aftermath of their small, overactive noses and paws. This will appear as small, 3 to 4 inch, cone-shaped holes in your lawn, with tufts of grass lifted above the soil.

Not a pretty sight!

Skunk tracks are easy to identify on soil, with 5 toes on each foot and visible claws.

If you have vegetables such as corn, they generally go straight for them, leaving the lower ears of the corn damaged.

Skunks will also raid poultry houses and like to give a good rummage through your garbage bins.

Then it’s all in the stink.

Formerly known as its musk, this yellowish odor is released from a skunk’s overactive anal glands and can reach up to 20 feet (6 meters). The smell is a tenacious one. It can be smelt up to 1.5 miles away and adheres to anything in its path.

If the skunks are living in your yard, you can follow the odor straight to their front door. They can live in holes in the ground, under bushes, or among piles of wood, and even under sheds or building foundations.

You also won’t go wrong if you see a skunk.

There are 11 different species of skunks worldwide, 9 of which reside in the western hemisphere.

The most common type is your Striped Skunk. This skunk is known for its black fur with two large white stripes down its back, and a narrow white bar between the eyes. Skunks can range in weight from 1.5 to 14 lbs and are similar in size to a domestic cat.

skunk in green grass

Why do Skunks Dig Up My Lawn?

Mmm…

Nothing beats the appeal of a big green lawn.

The main reason for skunks digging up a lawn is to look for food or shelter.

In most cases, they will be foraging for insects or grubs under the grass in the top layer of soil. Skunks don’t like wasting time or energy, so they will usually feed within the first inch.

Read our article on how to stop most animals from digging holes in the yard for an easy step-by-step guide.

How to Get Rid of Skunks From Digging in Yard (Step-by-Step)

Once you have identified the skunks as the culprits, then what should you do about it?

Step One: Identifying Where the Skunks Live

First things first.

Time to put your detective hat on.

Try to identify where the skunks have moved in. Are they living in your yard or your neighbor’s yard?

Look out for their unique footprints and foraging holes in the lawn or garden beds.

Hopefully, you won’t come across their actual den.

However, if you find a den, then it is likely the skunks have younglings with them. Tolerance is the best approach then, as you allow the younglings to reach a certain age. Younglings do not open their eyes until 3 weeks and are weaned at 6 to 7 weeks old. After this, they will leave the den.

To tell if they are living in the den, while they are asleep, place flour or chalk dust around the opening of the den during the day. As soon as the sun goes down or the following morning, you can check the area for tracks.

Step Two: Deterring the Skunks From Living in a Den

Focus on making the den or area around it inhospitable. This will force the mum to relocate her younglings.

This can be done without bringing any harm to the skunk family.

At nightfall, after you see tracks, you will know that they are out of the den. Then place either mothballs tied in a cloth bag or ammonia-soaked or bleach-soaked rags into the den to keep them from returning.

It is not recommended for skunks to be physically removed as this can cause great distress, which might result in death. Skunk removals should only be done by licensed professionals who know how to relocate animals safely.

If removal is the only solution, then be sure to contact your local animal control department or humane society. In most states, it is illegal to remove animals yourself, so these people will be able to help you out.

skunk in backyard patio

Step Three: How to Seal a Vacant Den

Once you are sure the den has been vacated by your local skunk residents, it is important to seal the den right away.

This will keep skunks or other animals from taking residence in the future. And believe me, these critters won’t waste any time taking advantage of an open home!

Here’s how to do it:

Get a bag of large gravel and a separate pile of soil. Place some gravel in the hole, followed by some soil. Take a hosepipe and wash the dirt between the gravel. Now repeat this process several times until you reach 6 inches from the top of the hole.

Next, dig out a 12 to 18-inch circle around the entrance of the den, until you reach the same level as the gravel. Take a circular piece of chicken wire and place it over the entire hole that you dug. Cover the wire with gravel and fill in the hole with dirt.

Now wet the soil and stamp the area down until it is hard and level.

And there you have it:

A skunk home off the market.

Step Four: Getting Rid of Those Yummy Grubs

Our lawns or garden beds can offer skunks the most delicious food ever:

A literal grub buffet!

This is where prevention is key, and reducing the grub temptation is a great way of stopping skunks from digging holes in the lawn.

Grubs are the larvae of several types of beetles, such as June Bugs, Japanese Beetles, or May Beetles. These larvae feed on the roots of grass which diminishes the root mass, allowing much easier access for the skunks.

The solution:

Applying a combination of Nematodes and milky spores to the lawn.

Nematodes are microscopic organisms that eat grubs and can only be applied when new eggs have just hatched into larvae. Both nematodes and milky spores must be applied in late summer or early fall.

Milky spores are bacteria that cause disease among the larvae and are only effective for certain types of beetle larvae.

As it is difficult to identify which larvae you might have, it is most beneficial to use both of these methods.

There are also some good biodegradable products available, such as Anderson’s Organic Grub Control.

Here are some more helpful tips to try out when it comes to grub control:

Step Five: Catch Them Red-Handed!

One good way to stop skunks from digging up lawn, is to introduce a motion-detector light. For maximum results, you can install multiple light sources.

This is a great scare-tactic for keeping the skunks out but it won’t be a long-term solution, as they will soon learn that lights are harmless. Therefore it’s good to use other preventative methods with this tactic.

Motion-detected sprinklers, that will spray them with cold water as they cross its sensor are also useful.

If you’re looking for something different, then a mechanical scarecrow can be effective at scaring those furry bandits. These will often resemble common predators, such as owls, coyotes, and wolves.

Step Six: Out Stink the Skunks

Ironic, isn’t it?

Skunks have an acute sense of smell, so if you use some nifty home remedies to spray the perimeter of your yard, these will help reduce a lot of skunk activity.

Sprinkle spices such as paprika, cayenne pepper, or jalapeno pepper in key areas. And don’t be shy- a wide application will do wonders.

As the skunks dig, it will spread the spices into the soil.

Also, applications of soap or apple cider vinegar are known to deter skunks.

Many animals, including skunks, have a strong dislike for citrus. Simply peel and cut up lemons and sprinkle them around your garden and near your garbage containers.

Then you can make your own citrus spray. Place 2-3 drops of citrus essential oil into a spray bottle with one gallon of water.

Peppermint essential oil can be used similarly and works well at stopping skunks from burrowing under buildings.

Smells work by trial and error, so if you notice it’s not working then slightly increase the number of drops.

Step Seven: Remove Other Skunk Attractions

The best way to deter skunks from digging up your lawn is to remove other attractions from your yard.

Keep garbage sealed and inaccessible. Remove lumber and unnecessary junk piles. Skunks enjoy a good bite of your pet’s food, so be sure to store the food indoors or in a tightly-sealed storage container.

Seal any openings that a skunk may access under a shed, deck, or any other buildings. If given a small chance, you can count on them getting underneath anything!

If you have beehives, elevate the beehive about 3 feet and place a smooth metal sheet at the base.

Keep your yard cut back and tidy. Prune shrubs and trees as necessary and do not allow excessive amounts of nuts, berries, or acorns from remaining on the ground. Keep leaf litter low.

If you have a compost heap, make sure it is sealed off properly, as skunks love helping themselves to any veggie or fruit peels.

A big no-no: don’t add any meat or fish products into your compost.

These methods will also help keep other pests at bay, such as rats, mice, and rabbits.

Step Eight: Preparing a Skunk-Proof Fence

This works wonders, friends.

Skunk-proofing the perimeter of your yard sounds labor-intensive, but once done, your endless skunk problems will soon be a distant memory.

Check out this video for how to get the job done right:

Step Nine: Using Predator Urine

Say what?

You heard it. Urine seems to keep the skunks from digging up the lawn.

This is a very effective, natural control method. Skunks are afraid of foxes, coyotes, and both wild and domestic dogs. You can purchase coyote or fox urine from a local store and then spray it around the perimeter of your yard.

Some gardening stores provide flakes soaked in predator urine, that can be distributed where necessary.

If you have a dog, their urine can also be used to deter skunks. I’ll leave the task of collecting or distributing it, to your imagination!

Here are some carefully selected products that can help you keep those mischiefs under control:

Useful Skunk Repelling Products

YOFIT Horned Owl Scarecrow

This product seems to do the art of scaring very well.

This 15.7 by 6.7-inch bird can be placed on your patio overlooking the lawn or erected on a stake outside. It is solar-powered and will give anyone a big fright with its large, bright eyes.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly and animal friendly.
  • Solar-powered, therefore easy to maintain.
  • Can blend in with your garden.

Cons

  • Will require regular relocation for maximum effect.

Bonide Products Animal Repellent Granules

Here’s a very useful skunk repellent.

Apply the granules to your garden beds, lawn, or around any buildings and this will keep not only skunks but many other visitors at bay, such as raccoons, rabbits, beavers, chipmunks, squirrels, and mice.

Pros

  • Not harmful to animals or humans.
  • Easy to apply.
  • Biodegradable.
  • Can last up to 2 months.

Cons

  • Will require regular re-application
  • Seems to work better with smaller rodents
  • It can smell really bad in your yard.

Essentially KateS Peppermint Essential Oil

Here’s a benefit-rich product.

Not only does it smell nice and keep the skunks away, but it also helps with general hygiene around the home and garden.

The strong smell of the peppermint will irritate a skunk’s senses and will deter them from nesting in an area.

Pros

  • Comes with a detailed user guide (e-book).
  • Easy to apply.
  • Additional household uses.

Cons

  • Requires regular application.

Aspectek Predator Eye Animal Repeller

Aspectek Predator Eye Animal Repeller

Wanting something even scarier?

This product is great at stopping skunks from digging up the lawn. With big flashing red eyes and the reflective icon, any intruders will want to stay far away.

This is a solar-powered repeller that goes on and off by itself and will last up to 7 days after a single charge.

Pros

  • Low maintenance.
  • Comes in a pack of two.
  • Able to ward off several different animals.

Cons

  • Over time, some animals may discover that it won’t harm them!
  • Weather-dependent on charging light.

The Next Big Step…

Getting out there and skunk-proofing your yard.

I hope you have found some useful tips and advice on how to stop skunks from digging up lawn.

It can take some trial and error, but soon you’ll come out on top.

We’d also love to hear from you.

If you have any comments or experiences to share with us about skunks, let us know in the comments section below.

You’ve got this.

Those skunks don’t know what’s coming their way!

About the Author: Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.