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We own a cabin in Oakley, Utah, and had a skunk underneath in July of last year. The odor has lingered but we think the skunk may have died or just left because the smell is going away. We want to prevent more from going underneath again. Is there a barrier type wire mesh that we can have installed or do it ourselves around the cabin?

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As one who has done quite a bit of research on skunks, handled dozens of them, and even been sprayed more than once, I can appreciate you dilemma.

The largest and most common skunk in Utah is the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis).Besides being infamous for spraying when threatened, skunks cause other types of damage. They will raid poultry houses for eggs and dig up lawns, golf courses, and other sodded areas searching for white grubs and earthworms.

Because skunks are the major wildlife vector for rabies, please be careful. This disease is endemic in the skunk population throughout Utah. The incubation period of rabies in infected animals is highly variable but can be extremely long. The length of infected animals is actually transmissible is also variable, ranging from three days to two weeks before the onset of symptoms. Once symptoms appear the disease will normally kill the infected animal within a few days.

Diseased animals may display abnormal behavior such as staggering, blundering walk, aggression toward people or other animals or daylight activity. Skunks displaying such abnormal behavior may be rabid and should be avoided or destroyed.

The best control around buildings is prevention. Do not allow skunks to establish themselves in or under buildings. All holes in foundations or other points of possible entry should be sealed using sheet metal, cement, hardware cloth, chicken wire or bricks. If you use sheet metal or hard ware cloth. Be sure to bury the bottom six inches of the material under the ground to prevent them for digging under it.

If a skunk has already become established under a building, all openings but one should be sealed. Sprinkle a 2-foot square patch of flour in front of the one remaining opening. Check the flour patch two to three hours after dark for tracks. If the tracks show that the skunk has left, seal the openings at once. When the skunk returns and finds that he cannot get back in, he will leave the area. This method should not be used in April, May, or June as there is a chance that young animals may be present and would be sealed in.

Now the about the lingering odor. Skunk odor is one of the most persistent and offensive odors in nature. The odor provides the skunk with it best line of defense. Diluted solution of vinegar or tomato juice can be used to remove most of the odor from pets, people, and clothing. Clothing can also be soaked in weak solutions of ammonia. If the mishap occurs while camping, clothing can be smoked over a juniper fires.

Walls, rooms, or other areas that have been spayed by a skunk can be treated with nuetroleum alpha. If the chemical is not available through local cleaning supplies stores, check on-line. Also, many cleaning stores now have products that can also remove the odor. If you can't find any nuetroluem alpha, let me know. I have some demonstration product I can give you.

Lastly, if you happen to encounter a skunk when enclosing the patio and get sprayed in your eyes, you will most likely experience a burning sensation and some temporary blindness. Your recovery time can be hastened by rinse your eyes with cold water.

Posted on 1 Aug 2007

Terry Messmer
Professor & Wildlife Resource Specialist

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