Aside from their infamous odor, skunks are not usually classed as pests because about half of their diet is insects, about 20 percent is mice and other small rodents, and the rest is fruit, carrion, garbage, and other odds and ends. Many of the insects they eat are pests such as crickets, grasshoppers, white grubs, and gypsy moths.
Skunk Damage to look out for
Skunks sometimes build dens under porches and patio slabs, steps, crawlspaces, and in basements. If they invade your personal space, they can be lured out and trapped. Sometimes a skunk will invade a chicken house, or a beehive (to eat the bees, not the honey). On the other hand, farmers sometimes welcome skunks in their barns because they are good “mousers.”
Skunks occasionally get into a garden to eat some corn or bulbs, or they tear up turf in their quest for juicy soil-dwelling grubs and earthworms. If you see a skunk digging in your lawn, it may mean there are enough white grubs eating the roots of your turf to attract the animal, and your lawn needs help. Skunks have a few natural enemies, including great horned owls, foxes, coyotes, and bobcats. Although skunks may be valuable ecological allies, they are also major carriers of rabies, a potentially fatal virus disease that is fully discussed elsewhere in this file.
Most Obvious Symptoms of a Skunk
Skunks are insect and rodent eaters and are more benign than harmful. What is harmful is the symptoms of their work. They dig cone shaped holes in lawns. These holes are several inches deep at most but the turf has been destroyed where they dig. If you grow corn, you can tell if a skunk’s been at work by checking the damage carefully: a squirrel will damage ears near the top of the plant, a raccoon will topple the whole stalk to get the ears, but a skunk will only damage ears that are close to the ground. Don’t forget to sniff the air carefully when investigating! If your trash containers have been knocked over, check the area at night with a flashlight to catch the culprit; skunks will stay put if caught in the act, while other animals such as raccoons, foxes, or dogs will usually flee.