From time to time, my office receives calls from residents concerned about the prevalence of wildlife in their neighborhoods, from deer to skunks, and everything in between.
Independent Animal Control, which provides service to Cherry Hill Township, often gives residents advice to protect their properties against intrusion from “nuisance” animals, while at the same time enabling all creatures to peacefully coexist.
In the last few weeks, I have heard from a number of residents who have had close encounters with skunks, in particular. And while these animals often tend to be harmless, they can leave behind an unpleasant legacy.
With that in mind, Animal Control has put together the following list of tips to help deter skunks and other animals from your lawn and yard as we enter the fall.
Remove food, shelter
• Be sure to remove nuts, berries and other natural food sources. Skunks are scavengers who will eat anything they can find. If you have trees that produce nuts, berries or other fruits, clean them up by raking your yard as often as necessary.
Other vegetation, such as grass clippings, may also contain food sources for the animals, and should be discarded as soon as possible.
• If you have a garden, harvest ripe fruit and vegetables as soon as you can.
• Use a tray under your bird feeder to catch most of the seeds, and clean up any stray seeds dropped by birds.
Protect your waste
• Animals will eat garbage, so it’s important to keep your trash cans properly sealed. Sometimes regular garbage cans simply won’t do; in this case, you can buy locking cans at your local home improvement store.
• If possible, store your trash bins in a shed or in your garage at night to avoid attracting animals with their smell.
• Use an enclosed compost bin, since skunks like to eat old fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, and other items that you may be composting
Close off hiding places
• Skunks like to make their homes under decks, porches, and in other sheltered areas. Close off appealing spaces by using rocks, fencing or plywood.
• Log piles and piles of lumber or building materials can also serve as shelter. Store the materials in a shed or bin to prevent skunks from moving in.
• Large bushes are also good shelters for skunks, so it’s a good idea to keep branches trimmed on low-hanging vegetation.
• Install lights in your yard to make it much less appealing — but considering using solar or other energy-saving lighting to avoid paying high electric bills to keep the lights running all night.
• You could also install a motion sensor that gets tripped when a skunk or another creature comes close.
In this case, the skunk will have to enter your property for the light to work as a deterrent.
Use substances to repel
Several substances are known to be offensive to skunks.
Speak to a specialist at a home improvement store if you’re unsure of the best option for your home. Place these substances around the edges of your yard, and be sure to re-apply every few days, especially after a heavy rain.
• Fox and dog urine deters skunks, and home improvement stores carry sprays.
• Pepper sprays, also sold to repel squirrels and other creatures, are effective skunk repellents. Spray them on trees and areas where you’ve seen skunks.
• Ammonia deters skunks. Soak old rags in ammonia and place them under your deck or porch to keep skunks from coming in.
• For a more natural solution, you can scatter orange or lemon peels around your property, or under your deck or porch.
Residents should contact Animal Control directly to report animals that are displaying symptoms such as limb paralysis, circling, boldness/unprovoked aggression, disorientation or staggering, foaming at the mouth and uncharacteristic tameness — all of which can be signs of rabies. Although skunks are mostly nocturnal, they sometimes look for food during the day; you do not need to be concerned if you see an adult skunk during the day unless it is displaying abnormal behavior.
To report a suspected rabid animal, call Animal Control at 718–3050. Please remember that my door is always open if you have additional questions or concerns. Cherry Hill is home to a variety of diverse species of plant and wildlife, and it is my hope that we will all be able to coexist with a little fine-tuning!