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Why do skunks always get hit by cars?

What to do about skunks

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Three skunks on a porch

Karel Bock

Skunks, easily identifiable by their characteristic black and white striping, are infamous for producing a foul odor when frightened. Although a skunk’s spray is known mostly for its robust smell, it can also cause intense discomfort if it gets into a person or animal’s eyes.

Fortunately, these mild-mannered creatures rarely use this potent defense, and provide quite a few benefits to the areas they inhabit.

In cases where eviction is necessary, a few mild harassment and deterrence techniques can help you humanely remove skunks while escaping smell-free.

Common conflicts and what to do about skunks

It is more likely you will smell a skunk than see one. Persistent, faint musky 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, you may even find plants knocked over or damage to the lower leaves or ears of ripening garden crops, including corn. You should look for these additional clues; foxes also have their own musky scent that may cause misidentification.

Skunk encounters

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.

Warning signs to heed

Skunks use their powerful defense only when they or their young are threatened and cannot escape. Even then, they give ample warning that should be heeded — stamping front feet, a raised tail, hissing, short forward charges and twisting their hind end around in your direction. Spotted skunks will even contort into a characteristic handstand, rump in the air with eyes still fixed on the threat. Move away slowly and quietly. By nature, dogs tend to ignore these warnings, so it is important they be restrained for their own good.

How do you get rid of skunks?

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 shelter when they are most vulnerable (during the coldest parts of the winter and when raising young).

Skunks are nocturnal and non-aggressive, plus they play a beneficial role—all good reasons to just leave them alone until they have moved on of their own accord (which they readily do) or can safely be encouraged to leave an area where they are not wanted.

What attracts skunks to your yard?

Habitat modification

Skunks are opportunists at heart — they’re mainly attracted to low-hanging fruit like garbage and pet food left out at night, as well as convenient denning sites, such as wood and rock piles, elevated sheds, and openings under concrete slabs and porches and crawl spaces.

Preventive measures, such as removing attractants around houses, will decrease the likelihood of an unpleasant skunk encounter. This includes securing trash, covering window wells, feeding pets indoors, or if fed outdoors, removing food immediately after pets eat.

Skunks may also dig for grubs in the yard when wet soil conditions push grubs close to the surface — their presence may be a sign of an overwatered lawn. Occasionally, however, a skunk may also wander into an open garage or shed, which is a compelling reason to secure all outbuildings.

Preventing denning (exclusion)

Exclusion techniques should be used proactively to prevent denning before an animal moves in. Any suspected skunk den should first be checked to determine if it has residents.

This may be done by loosely filling the hole (or holes) with soil, leaves, straw, crumpled paper or similar material. If a skunk is present, the animal will easily push their way out overnight and reopen the hole.

If the plug remains undisturbed for two or three nights, it is safe to assume that the hole is unoccupied and can be filled. In the winter, skunks may remain inactive for longer periods, so provide them with a bit more time to disturb the plug before blocking the den entrance. Permanently exclude skunks (and other den-seeking creatures) with an L-shaped footer of welded wire or similar barriers.

If a skunk is using the den, either harassment or eviction using a one-way door system is recommended. When evicting skunks, be sure that dependent young are not present. When in doubt, assume they are and use the door only after they start following their mother to forage. Leave the door in place from two or three nights to a week to be sure the skunk has left.


When it is safe to displace skunks, mild harassment can be very effective. This can be as simple as loosely repacking the den hole with leaves or straw or other material to see if the skunk gets the message and moves elsewhere. If they require more persuading, adding light and noise to make an dark and quiet denning space unattractive may help as well. Make sure the skunk is not close by before setting up the disturbances.

About repellants

Repellants may also be effective in skunk deterrence. Mild repellents, such as used kitty litter, can be placed near or inside the den to one side so the skunk has to pass them to get out; commercial or homemade capsaicin or castor oil repellents may also be tried.

Avoid buying skunk deterrents that are based on predator urine — these products are created under inhumane conditions, and are not necessary to repel skunks effectively.

Stronger products, such as the powerful capsaicin-based “hot sauces,” are often unnecessary — in the case that they are used, they must be treated with extreme care due to the consequences for people, and animals who may inadvertently come into contact with them.

Skunk in garage

Skunks who have wandered into a garage can simply be allowed to wander back out by making sure the door is open before dusk. Skunks are nocturnally active, so opening the door at dusk and closing it later in the evening is likely to be a solution to this problem.

It is important to make sure the skunk has not been coming and going for long enough to have established a den and given birth, and that any accessible foods (bags of bird seed, for example) have been moved and secured in tightly sealed containers.

Removing a skunk from a window well

It is not uncommon for skunks, with their climbing abilities and weak eyesight, to become trapped in a window well or similarly deep pit. If this happens, provide a means of escape.

Place a rough board (or one with cleats, carpet, toweling, chicken wire or other material to give the animal traction) that is long enough to serve as a ramp out of the well. Skunks are poor climbers, so the board should lean no steeper than a 45-degree angle. Trying to stay out of sight of the skunk, slowly and carefully lower the board. If possible, a second person with a vantage point high enough to see the skunk (perhaps from an upstairs window) can warn of any signs of agitation.

Another method of placing the board is to tie it to the end of a long pole and lower it by holding the opposite end of the pole. Once the board is placed, keep people and pets away from the area until nightfall, when the skunk should leave.

If the skunk cannot climb out due to the well’s depth or steepness, the Connecticut Wildlife Rehabilitators Association recommends a technique that involves a garbage can and smelly cheese. Place the cheese at the bottom of the can and lower it on its side with the open end facing the skunk. Once the skunk enters and begins to dine, carefully tilt the can up a bit, raising it elevator-style out of the window well, then gently tip it on its side again so the skunk can amble out.

Neutralizing skunk odors

The traditional remedy for removing the smell of skunk spray is a tomato juice bath. However, tomato juice, in conjunction with vinegar, only serves to reduce the stench, as it doesn’t neutralize the molecules that make skunk spray particularly pungent. Here’s a particularly effective remedy that’s safe for dogs and cats, as well as humans:

  • 1 quart of 3-% hydrogen peroxide (available at any pharmacy)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap

Wearing rubber gloves, wash with this solution immediately after the spraying occurs. DO NOT get the solution in eyes. (If you don’t have peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap on hand, use vinegar diluted with water.)

Caution: Do NOT store this mixture or make it ahead of time, as the mixture could explode if left in a bottle.

Rub the mixture all over and scrub deep to neutralize the odor — however, if you’re washing your dog or cat, don’t leave the mixture on longer than you have to as peroxide can bleach fur. Rinse the solution off thoroughly, and the smell should be gone.

The cruelty of lethal control

People will go to extreme lengths to avoid getting sprayed by a skunk — even those who bill themselves as wildlife-control professionals. To stay outside the range of spray, these hired workers will sometimes kill skunks by injecting chemical solvents, such as acetone (aka nail polish remover), into the animal’s chest using a long pole syringe, likely causing a painful and stressful death.. Skunks are at particular risk of inhumane killing methods, including treatment as horrific as drowning. As long as humane methods of deterrence and eviction are possible, there are ways to avoid being sprayed by skunks without causing extreme suffering.

Public health concerns

The skunk is one of four wild animals (including the fox, raccoon and bat) considered to be primary carriers of the rabies virus and is, therefore, classified as a rabies vector species. Skunks have also been known to carry leptospirosis.

Is that skunk rabid?

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 an adult skunk in the daytime unless they are also showing abnormal behaviors:

  • Limb paralysis.
  • Circling.
  • Boldness or unprovoked aggression.
  • Disorientation, staggering.
  • Uncharacteristic tameness.

Don’t approach the skunk yourself. Call your local animal control officer, wildlife rehabilitator, health department, or police department for assistance.

How To Eliminate the Skunk Smell From Your Car Interior and Exterior

One of the most overwhelming odors comes from the spray of a skunk. The stench can linger for days, especially in a confined space like your car. Fortunately, there are smell neutralizers you can use, including specialized products and mixes you can make yourself.

How To Eliminate the Skunk Smell From Your Car Interior and Exterior

What Does Skunk Smell Like?

Once you have experienced the smell of a skunk, you will never forget it. A skunk’s spray is highly offensive, like a chemically enhanced smell of rotten eggs multiplied by a hundred. Some encounters will be so intense that you can almost taste the scent.

How Long Does Skunk Smell Last on a Car?

The foul-smelling odor of skunk can persist for a few days or weeks, depending on where it is emanating from. If you have run over a skunk, the smell might be coming from your vehicle’s undercarriage.

Those unlucky enough to have a direct spray from a skunk might have an even more pungent odor from their car’s exterior.

If your dog gets sprayed at the park, you’ll likely have no choice but to transport them home in your vehicle. Once the skunk smell permeates the interior, your work will be cut out for you.

Will Skunk Smell on Car Go Away?

Eventually, the smell will dissipate. You can air out your vehicle and lessen the stench, but any humidity will bring the putrid odor back with a vengeance.

It is best to invest the time and remove the source of the smell with a mixture of vinegar, water, and dishwashing liquid. That should be concentrated on the areas that were affected by the skunk’s spray.

How Do You Get Rid of the Skunk Smell From Your Car Exterior?

Before you start dealing with the odor, you’ll want to wash your car, but soap and water will only go so far. You have several options to eliminate the odor of skunk from the exterior of your vehicle.

Skunk Smell Neutralizers

You can purchase neutralizers specifically for the smell of skunks, such as Van Den Heuvels R86 Industrial Odor Eliminator or Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover.

These can be obtained via Amazon, but you can also brew your own mixtures to deal with pungent spray.

For best results, deal with skunk odor immediately by choosing from the following methods depending on your available supplies.

Method 1

  1. You can mix distilled vinegar and water in equal parts. Add several drops of dishwashing liquid.
  2. Liberally spray the exterior of your car. Pay special attention to the undercarriage and tires.
  3. Leave on for five minutes.
  4. Rinse the surface of the vehicle thoroughly.
  5. Repeat if necessary.

Method 2

  1. Mix 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup of baking soda. Add one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid.
  2. You should thoroughly wash the car’s exterior as you would with soap.
  3. Rinse and repeat if necessary.

Method 3

If the odor still lingers after using one of those two methods, place a container of charcoal beneath your vehicle while parked. Activated charcoal has excellent absorption thanks to its surface being more porous.

How To Eliminate the Skunk Smell From Your Car Interior and Exterior

How To Get Skunk Smell Out of Car Interior?

A skunked car is practically undrivable, but, thankfully, the options available to you are similar to dealing with odors on a vehicle’s exterior.

Neutralizers To Use

You can use the same neutralizers mentioned for the car’s exterior. Doing a spot test before using any product on your vehicle’s interior is recommended.

To do so, dab some of the neutralizer on a small area to ensure it does not discolor your upholstery.

Method 1

  1. For cloth seats, use a mixture of vinegar and water. Lightly spray the interior of your car and let it sit.
  2. Use a towel or cloth and wipe up the water and vinegar.
  3. You may have to repeat this process.

Method 2

  1. For vinyl or leather seats, use a vinegar and linseed oil mixture.
  2. Rub the interior seats with a towel.

Method 3

  1. You can mix hydrogen peroxide, water, and baby shampoo.
  2. Wash down the entire interior of the vehicle with the mixture.

How To Get Skunk Smell Out of Car Vents?

When getting rid of skunk smell, it’s important not to overlook your car’s vents. Otherwise, no matter what you do, the odor is likely to linger.

Neutralizers To Use

You can use the same specialized products. Be sure to spray your vents liberally and wipe them clean. Alternatively, you can improvise your own odor eliminator.

Method 1

  1. You can add 1/2 cup of vinegar to two cups of water.
  2. Wipe down the inside of the vents with the mixture.
  3. Spray the vinegar solution inside the vents and leave.

Method 2

  1. Add one cup of dry mustard to a bucket of warm water.
  2. Mix until mustard is dissolved.
  3. Use a cloth to wipe down the vents with the mixture.

Will a Car Wash Help With Skunk Smell?

Unfortunately, a typical car wash will not help eliminate the smell of skunk. Instead, it is best to find the source of the odor and clean it immediately with a mixture containing either vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.

How Long Does It Take To Eliminate the Skunk Smell Out of Your Car?

The length of time it takes to remove the smell of skunk from your car will depend on how strong it was initially, and it will also hinge on the effectiveness of the method you choose.

Regardless of how you deal with skunk odor, it may be necessary to repeat the cleaning several times before eliminating the smell.

Placing a bowl of vinegar or activated charcoal in the affected area will also help absorb any lingering odors.

The rank smell of a skunk can overwhelm your senses, especially in a confined space like your car. Given that, it’s essential to deal with it immediately.

So, clean every surface that may have been affected by a skunk’s spray, either directly or indirectly, to rid yourself of one of the foulest things that can affect your car.

Author: DJ

Dave Junior is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

How to Kill a Skunk Without Spraying

Need skunk removal in your hometown? We service over 500 USA locations! Click here to hire us in your town and check prices — updated for year 2020.

It may actually be somewhat hard to control this. Even humans often crap their pants when they die. If you set a body grip trap, it’ll sometimes work, and they’ll sometimes spray. I’m guessing that if you’re reading this web page, you’re not a professional fur trapper, in which there’s no chance that you’re going to be setting one of these dangerous traps anyway. And don’t forget: if you have trouble and want to hire a pro like me, someone with experience, click on this map of Professional Wildlife Removal Companies, and you’ll find an expert in your town or city.

Shooting: As with any animal, you can also shoot the skunk, if it’s legal to do so in your area.

Poison: Is there such a thing as poison for skunks? No, there is no legal or registered poison designed to kill skunks. Also, poison is a cowardly and inhumane way to kill something. If you absolutely must kill the animal, using either a body grip trap or shooting would be better. Read the guide Should You Ever Poison A Skunk?

Cage Trap: The easiest and most effective thing to do, actually, is the trap the skunk in a live cage trap. You can read more about how to do it by clicking on this web page: how to trap a skunk. Once you have done so, you could kill the animal, but it would be nice to relocate it five miles away from your house. Just drape a cloth over the trap, and you can safely pick it up and put it in the trunk of your car or bed of your truck and drive it away. I do know that in many states professional trappers (well, no one, actually) is allowed to relocate a skunk because it’s a rabies vector species. The pros have gotten very good at how to kill a skunk without it spraying. They usually kill it by lethal injection. Although there are other trappers that say «screw the law!» and relocate the skunks anyway.

HOW TO KILL A SKUNK — More and more wildlife are being driven into residential areas as a result of humans taking over their natural habitats acre by acre through deforestation. The skunk is particularly undesirable due to its propensity to spray a sticky, obnoxious spray on unwitting victims. This is quite avoidable with the right information, but many homeowners are scared and would rather not deal. Besides, skunks are primary carriers of the dreaded rabies virus. For any of these reasons, people are driven to kill sighted skunks. There are several ways to kill a skunk, and the major challenge while carrying out the act, is how to avoid being sprayed. This could be a dilemma because skunks almost always spray when they are killed. It is however, quite possible to kill a skunk without getting sprayed in return. Here are some methods of killing the stripped mammal:

1. Shooting
The option of shooting a skunk is more suited to rural dwellers due to the associated risk of shooting persons and pets by mistake in urban and surburban areas. Shooting a skunk seems simple enough, but it actually has other disadvantages – there’s the matter of the animal’s blood, which may have been contaminated with rabies and other zoonotic infections. These diseases are transferable to humans that are exposed to the blood of rabid animals.

2. Lethal Traps
Body grip traps are a kind of lethal trap, almost only used by old time fur trappers. They are both difficult and dangerous to use. The most common is the double spring-loaded connibear trap. They work by snapping down on the animal when sprung, and killing it via choking or squeezing. The use of lethal traps are inhumane and mostly impractical because they pose a danger to neighborhood dogs and cats. Dealing with the carcass is also not a pleasant affair. Lethal traps are banned in some states

3. Poisoning
The option of using poison to kill a skunk comes easily to mind for many homeowners. For one, laying out poison for a pest can often be trailed by unforeseen consequences, where household pets get killed after getting to the poison first. It is also largely ineffective as it may result in bigger issues for the homeowner and a lot of suffering for the animal. The poison used in some cases only makes the animal sick and suffer greatly before recovering again. In the instance that the poison does work, chances are high that the skunk will crawl into a dark, tight corner on your property to die. When this happens, you wake up in a couple of weeks to a horrible stench that will stick around for a long time. Poisonous substances used on skunks include Anticoagulants like warfarin, Antifreeze (Ethylene glycol) Bromethalin (rat poison), Cholecalciferol, and Strychnine. It is illegal and downright inhumane to poison skunks, there are better ways to dispose of them and these should be explored instead. If you want good alternatives, read my how to get rid of skunks page for step-by-step tips.

4. Other Inhumane Means
For the fear of being sprayed, or unfounded concern about if skunks are dangerous to cats or dogs people go to extreme lengths while trying to kill skunks. These unsavory and highly inhumane methods include drowning, injecting acetone (nail polish remover) and other chemical solvents into a skunk’s chest with a long pole syringe.

How to Avoid Getting Sprayed When Killing a Skunk
A skunk will almost always spray when it is killed and your best bet for not getting sprayed is of course, for you to be a good distance away. This is why a lot of people opt to shoot, but by all means, do this only if it is safe to. Lethal body grip traps may also work for spray avoidance on your person, but the stink will then hang around your property. The best method still remains to live trap the skunk and relocate it somewhere else. If you take the necessary precautions, you will never get sprayed while doing this. It is really not necessary to kill skunks, plus it is generally not a good idea because of the stink that will follow. If you feel that you need assistance to live trap and dispatch a skunk, do enlist the help of a wildlife expert.

Note: Always wear gloves and other protective gear while handling skunks, carcasses and contaminated equipment. Dispose of carcasses properly by placing them in a plastic bag and burying in the ground. For more information on skunk biology and behavior, and for a recipe to remove skunk spray odor, go to my skunk removal information page.

Skunk Email From Reader: Good Morning, we have a skunk underneath our house in Mill Valley. We have seen him and heard him coming and going and we have smelled him as well. He has gained access to the underside of our house from a small door on the east side which also allows us access. It is a crawl space at least to get in there. My partner has left you a message this morning on your phone. We are anxious as we have two small dogs. Please call either of us asap. There is no need for us to meet you at the house as it will be obvious to you how to gain access as I have described it above. However if its necessary we will meet you there.

My Response: It’ll be no problem to trap and remove your nuisance skunk, and to install an exclusion barrier around the perimeter of your home to keep out all wildlife, if you so desire.

Skunk Email From Reader: Hello — I was wondering if it would be possible for you to remove a skunk. I have him already trapped and in my backyard. I just don’t know what to do with him now. Would you be able to come get him? Would there be a cost involved? Would you have to kill the skunk? Any information would be appreciated. I live in Greene County, VA. Thank you, Jennifer

My Response: Jennifer — I do not service your area, but someone on my nationwide directory does. It’s very common for wildlife trappers to come help with skunks that other people have trapped. I don’t know the laws in Virginia, so I don’t know if the skunk will have to be killed or not. If you don’t want to trap or kill, I recommend live trapping, because skunk repellent isn’t effective.

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