Can Skunks Climb Fences? What to Know

Bill Taylor
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Most Common Skunk Species

The skunks most commonly found in the United States are the striped skunk and the hooded skunk. There are other common species as well. The spotted skunk is found in west of the Mississippi river. The hog-nosed skunk is a native to South America. The honey, or striped, skunk is found in the area from northern Mexico through sections of Western Texas. Their diet is predominantly insects. Spotted skunks largely feed on small rodents, insects, fruits, and berries. Striped skunks are omnivores, meaning they are both plant- and animal-based.

While the spotted skunk is not social, the striped skunk is increasingly social, even congregating in small family units. However, most of their time is spent foraging and very little time is spent interacting with other skunks.

The skunk’s black and white stripes are unique to the animal, and the markings are the most obvious characteristic used in identification. Striped skunks are dark, forest-green on the back and tawny on the body, although they may fade to gray in winter. They have black fur on their face, tops of their feet, and in the ears.

Striped Skunk

Unlike a visual barrier of a brick wall or an opaque fence, a skunk can easily see through a single strand of one inch by one-inch mesh wire or see through it to find the gaps between wires where it can squeeze through. Bait-and-like effect of food on the fence also doesn't work.

The only way to protect your house from skunks is to have an enclosure of chicken wire or welded mesh that comes down at least two feet underground and a two foot out drop to prevent digging out.

You can easily identify the location of a skunk burrow because an above ground mound is present. If you don't want to take out the burrow, you'll have to bury the one foot of fencing so the skunk can't dig to the surface and will have to climb the fence to get out of its burrow.

It is difficult or impossible to outwit a skunk but it is possible to out-wait one. Skunks for the most part do not remain active at night. So it is best to put in the barrier at night, when they are not active. In the morning, you will be able to identify any holes they may have found in the barrier and patch them up before they are active again.

Spotted Skunk

Facts.

Whether in the country or the suburbs the better question should be what doesn’t a skunk eat?

They are versatile little fellas that will dine on anything from berries, to insects to worms and are especially fond of sweet foods. Believe it or not I have seen them getting in the garbage and your dog’s food.

A skunk’s favorite meals are blueberries, sweet corn and tomatoes.

A striped skunk's diet also covers insects and insect-like creatures, including the larvae of ground beetles, lightning bugs, and grasshoppers, centipedes, scorpions, spiders, crickets, snails, slugs, pillbugs, earwigs, butterflies, caterpillars, dandelion plants, and many other varieties of plants, fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Contrary to public opinion, they don’t just eat garbage. They are very fond of sweet foods including blueberries, sweet corn, beans and tomatoes. They have an omnivorous diet that includes plants and small animals in addition to carrion, bird eggs, insects, mice, frogs, earthworms, and garbage.

Hog-Nosed Skunks

Because hog-nosed skunks dig a simple burrow, the creatures make their homes anywhere by they feel safe and secure. Though they can climb fences and other structures to get to food and ward off predators, they will often dig up a burrow near the fence to use as an escape hatch. This burrow is used both for resting and for making an escape in the event that a predator comes near.

Skunks are omnivores and they will eat a little bit of both plant and animal foods. The most common prey of skunks is insects, especially crickets, and earthworms. In the wild, they will also eat a variety of small amphibians as well as mammals including squirrels and mice.

The first step in discouraging skunks from digging under your fences is taken as soon as you put the fence in place. The fencing should be at least five feet tall to discourage digging, but be sure to bury the fencing as deep as you can will prevent the skunks from digging tunnels by the fence line.

You may also want to try installing a double gate to keep skunks from digging a burrow near their escape route. When installing the gate, include a long piece of metal that forms a ramp that descends to the ground from the burrow. The skunk will be able to walk up this ramp to leave and since skunks usually leave from the same exit, they will habituate the path to the ramp.

Hooded Skunks

The hooded skunk, which is indigenous to North America, is easily one of the most recognizable skunks. It bears a distinctive tuft of black fur on its white forehead, and a set of vibrantly white eyelashes that resemble eyeliner.

If you're on the lookout for skunks, the hooded skunk is probably the type you're least likely to overlook. Naturally curious and slightly notorious for its foul musky odor, the hooded skunk is one of the most social skunk species you can find. It's also one of the dug skunks, which means it shelters in dens with musky scents and several entrances, which keeps unwanted animals from getting in.

Even with its foul odor, and the fact that it feeds on insects and grubs, which humans tend to find highly offensive, the skunk is not a dangerous animal. The worst thing it's likely to do is spray you with its musky scent. Its scent glands are in the back of its neck, and it will squirt its musky odor from there to up to 12 feet away.

Since it is so quick, the skunk is likely to just spray and run before you can see where it's going. However, white-tailed deer tend to be particularly threatened by skunk scent. If you come across a skunk in your backyard, you might also notice the deer raised up on hind legs and pawing at the air.

What Is The Best Fence To Keep Skunks Out?

A skunk's natural habitat is woodland areas with plenty of cover and a water source. If you have skunks in your yard, you can make your yard more skunk-proof by increasing the amount of natural cover and reducing the amount of open space in the yard. You can make your yard less attractive to skunks by making sure you keep pet food inside and clean up your garbage.

Skunks dig around in the ground for grubs and worms, which is one reason why they may come into your yard. If you don't want skunks in your yard, avoid putting items from your compost outdoors until the compost is completely finished. Skunks also dig in the dirt for insects and worms. One solution to deter skunks from coming into your yard, is to limit the amount of loose dirt you have. Make sure your garden is planted and sealed off with plants and mulch and don't add extra dirt around your yard.

Finally, you can deter skunks from coming into your yard, by putting a fence up. Skunks are excellent climbers, but they can't scale fences that are at least six feet high. If your yard is smaller, you can make it more skunk proof by placing the fence along the outside of the yard and starting at least six feet from the corner of your house.

How Can I Prevent Skunks From Getting Onto My Property?

Prevention is key in reducing skunk problems. Skunks are agile diggers and climbers. Fencing will not prevent skunks from getting through, however, it can help keep them out.

An electric fence is the most effective way to keep a skunk from getting into your yard or garden. A good electric wire fence is an extremely effective and inexpensive way to keep skunks from your garden. (Do not put chicken wire or netting on top of the electric fence. The skunks will climb the chicken wire or dig underneath the netting.)

Once a skunk has been in an area, only an infestation of yellow jackets can keep a skunk out.

Final Thoughts

Skunk problems can be a source of frustration for homeowners. Wildlife animals are wild, and they always have other food, water, and shelter options. They don't need to invade a home or yard, and they don't want to. Habitat loss and human encroachment are the number one causes of wildlife animals becoming nuisances.

Skunks can certainly be a source of trouble for you and your family. They may find it easiest to enter your house from a certain part of your property. There may be a way to eliminate or prevent access to that area. Do skunks like to dig? If they have a burrow in your yard, you may be able to block it. Do skunks like to climb? If so, you might be able to modify the fence to prevent them from getting over or under it. (Preventing skunks from climbing may require that you also install an overhang to keep them from getting across the top of the fence.)

It is not necessary to trap and relocate skunks. They are highly adaptable creatures, and relocating them won't solve your problem unless you move them several miles away. This will just decrease the skunk population in one area and increase it somewhere else. You may have passed a skunk during your morning jog and never noticed that it is capable of crossing a busy highway.