When I went out to feed the backyard chickens that morning, I was stunned to see a skunk sitting in the trap I had laid by the back of the barn near the pen gate.  I hadn’t officially set it there to trap anything.  The back barn door had been locked, so I had just put the trap down instead of putting it all the way away.  The fox had managed to steal the bait (dead chicken, since we knew it liked those…  ) last fall without springing it, so it had still been set and I hadn’t bothered known how to release it.  The dog, Kiwi, wouldn’t fit in it and I would see the trap every day, on the chance that a cat got curious.

04222013a_preview_How to euthanze a skunk

Well, that explained the suspicious digging I had noticed by the gate over the weekend.  Fortunately, the wire and the bricks had impeded entry, but the skunk had not given up.  It was probably exploring for a new digging angle and accidentally walked into the trap.  It also explained the new dog perfume.  Did you know that a dog who has skunk spray oils on it can smell like burning rubber?  She must not have gotten a personal application, though, because it was partly her lack of distress that had us mystified about the aroma when we first noticed it two hours earlier.  She had been let in the house, all the way to my bedroom.  Oops.

Very slowly, I moved a couple of feet closer to the skunk, watching it intently.  It was, of course, also watching me.  It turned to fully face me with its wicked, beady little eyes, then hunched its back.  I backed up again and wondered how long it would take a skunk to die without food and water.  The trouble with that idea was that it was right next to the chicken pen.  I needed to go in and feed them.  I also didn’t want them or the dog sprayed again.

So, being the rational, logical person that I am, I ran into the house yelling, “You are NOT going to believe it!  You are NEVER going to believe it!”  I didn’t keep the girls in suspense long.  I was soon blurting out, “I trapped a skunk!”  Then, helplessly, “What do you do with a trapped skunk!?”  My husband was on the other side of the globe.  My sons were working or in college classes. Maybe my dad would have an idea.

My dad told me to call animal control while he looked things up on the internet.  Canyon County Animal Control does not deal with skunks.  They suggested a business called Nuisance Nabbers.  When I called, the business owner said the charge was $95 to find the animal and $60 to trap it.  For me, since I already had it contained, it would be $95.  (I’m guessing that amount covers their fuel costs.)  They would either release the animal or euthanize it.  He was very nice, but they couldn’t be here until 4 or 5 PM.  I needed to feed the chickens before then.

Soon my dad called me back and said he had some good plans forming.  We would need a tarp and a lawnmower. He was on his way over. When he arrived, he wanted to show me a youtube video of how someone walked up to cover the skunk in the trap.  This person proceeded to take the skunk out into the wild and shoot it.  We would use the lawn mower exhaust, piped in under the tarp to euthanize it.  All we needed to find was something to be the “pipe.”

04222013b_preview_How to euthanze a skunk

I thought of the shop vac hose, which my dad agreed would probably work.  We propped it up on a brick so that it would funnel the exhaust from the front of the lawnmower.  My dad let the tarp hang full length in front of him and slowly approached the trapped skunk.  This was challenging with the gusty wind.  The skunk watched but didn’t act aggressively.  Finally, the tarp was laid over the whole trap and my dad could grasp the trap handle through the tarp.  He carried it a few feet, to where we could drive up the lawn mower.  We were concerned that if we moved the skunk too much, it might get agitated.

04222013c_preview_How to euthanze a skunk

A few bricks were strategically placed to hold down the tarp and help it contain the fumes more effectively. We turned on the lawn mower and the shop vac hose melted within a few minutes. Time to look for a new pipe.

04222013d_preview_How to euthanize a skunk

I knew that my husband had various pipes around in his workshop, but for this, the pipe needed to be fairly wide, and it needed to be a little flexible.  Lo and behold, he had a three-foot section of old dryer vent tubing laying in the shop.  He knew it would be needed one day.  He would be particularly gratified that I was the one who ended up needing it.

04222013e_preview_How to euthanize a skunk

The dryer vent tubing was a good fit over the hole that the exhaust came out of, but it wasn’t a sealed system.  We waited about 40 minutes, then gingerly pulled back the tarp to check on the skunk.  It was laying down, but I thought I saw rhythmic breathing.  My dad thought it might just be the wind blowing its fur.  Either way, we were ready for a lunch break.

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After lunch, we went to see if the skunk was “still dead.”  No, but it was very relaxed.  The euthanizing process seemed like it was taking a very long time with the lawnmower.  Since the skunk seemed to no longer be a level red alert, we ventured to carry it a couple of hundred feet to the truck.  The dryer vent tubing was a PERFECT fit over the truck exhaust pipe.  Ten minutes later, the skunk was peacefully euthanized.

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Since this was the second time it had died, my dad suggested that it would be just as well to leave it in the trap, covered with the tarp overnight.  We moved it to an area that the dog could not access and parted ways until the next morning.  When we observed it again, it had not moved a muscle.  We double bagged it for the trash.

Idaho Fish and Game say that skunks fall into the category of nuisance unprotected predators. It seems somewhat humorous to me that the code specifies that you have to have a permit to release them live on government property.  Permission is also required to release them on private property.  I guess no one really wants skunks?  Law allows us (thankfully!) to deal with such animals to protect private property and assure personal safety.

The trap is back behind the barn, ready and waiting.  I am going to put something like tuna fish in it.  I think I might be able to take care of a skunk myself next time.  I should probably claim that dryer vent tubing for my own and put it together with a tarp as a skunk euthanizing kit. And, by the way, one of my daughters cut and spliced the shop vac hose and it works fine.  She might take after her dad.

  • http://anemoneflynn.com Anemone Flynn

    Wow, what an adventure! And what a great idea for euthanization without having to actually access the wild animal. I’m glad it worked out so well for you, and that you didn’t end up losing any chickens to this predator.

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  • Jesse

    My first thought when you started using the shop vac hose was…uh oh it’s going to melt. ;)

    • lauraimprovises

      Does this mean you have experience melting shop vac hoses, my son? ;-)

  • Chicken Farmer’s Wife

    Wonderful blog and documentation! Made me smile that you called Dad. Love that he searched the internet for a solution. :)

    • lauraimprovises

      So glad to hear you liked it. Yeah, my dad is super. He tried to help another time, too, but I told him I had to learn to do it myself. Two skunks later, I felt I had learned enough for now, and since dear husband has been available to help, have let him use his preferred “drown the skunk in a barrel full of water method.” But it is nice to know I have a method that I feel I can use.

  • drscot

    have used a similar method using the “Underground Exterminator” and a garden hose. They don’t melt, but I think your use of the dryer vent is actually superior because of the greater gas volume attained. I’m testing on another opossum for now (they dig up my saplings and garden).

    • lauraimprovises

      Glad to hear we might be helping you perfect your method!

    • Willi

      I too have skunks and opossums in my yard/garden. However I recently read a surprising article. It talked of how beneficial the opossums were to the yard and garden by eating harmful and dangerous pests( namely snakes,spiders and other undesirable insects) and how usually it was the skunks doing all the digging. It went on to tell how opossums frequently got “framed” for destruction caused by skunks and raccoons. Additionally it said opossums RARELY carry rabies like the other after hours pests. I’m starting to think I have been exterminating opossums unfairly due to a bad rap. Just food for thought.

  • therealzircon

    I’ve dealt with numerous skunks, and Laura’s explanation is on the right track, but can be refined. First, cover the live trap with black plastic, except for the front door. You need to be able to look inside (with a flashlight) in order to identify your critter. The plastic serves to keep the skunk calm during the next phase, and will also contain spray if that should happen. I use duct tape to wrap the cage with 3 mil plastic (I open up a contractors sack) and wrap the trap like a Christmas present. I use cat kibble with a little honey spread on top. I use a short can or plastic tub to hold the food. It generally takes 2 or 3 nights of having the trap set before the skunk will venture into it for the food.

    Once you are assured that you have a skunk trapped (and not the neighbor’s cat – but BTW, if you do catch a cat, it will be the ONLY time that cat is trapped – they are smart enough not to repeat the experience) then gently transport the trap to near an automobile. Instead of using tarps which leak a lot of carbon monoxide gas, I slide the trap, with the opening/trap door first, into a plastic garbage can (Rubbermaid) laid over on it’s side. That way the skunk cannot see the next step as the non-plastic covered open end is up inside the garbage can. I then take a contractors 3 mil plastic sack (the 44 gallon size) and gently work that around the opening of the garbage can. The sack protrudes from the end of the garbage can and it’s purpose is to make a gas-tight seal. One of the bottom corners of the sack is cut off about three inches on the diagonal. I duct tape a 3″ dryer hose to this corner opening. Then on the opposite bottom corner I cut off about 1″ of sack (or stab a few holes in the sack with a pair of scissors.) I do this to relieve the back pressure on the exhaust. If you don’t do this, the sack will inflate and blow off the can, or the dryer hose will blow off the exhaust pipe.

    I hook the dryer hose up to the exhaust pipe.The 3″ hose will likely be too large for most exhaust pipes (which are 2″ diameter) but I use a rubber reducer ring that slides over the exhaust pipe and is fixed with a hose clamp. The dryer hose is affixed to the rubber reducer ring (purchased in the plumbing dept. of Home Depot) with a larger hose clamp.

    Turn the automobile on and let it run for ten minutes. The process is peaceful. The skunk will scratch around a little bit but in a couple of minutes it will be unconscious. Reverse the assembly, put a fresh contractors sack down in the garbage can and “pour” the skunk into it. They may relieve themselves when they expire, but this way you don’t even have to handle the animal. Twist the sack tightly and put a tie around it to contain the animal and odor.

    I’ve done dozens of skunks in this manner and have never been sprayed. The key in transporting the trap is to approach is from the back (covered) end, talk calmly and gently to the animal, pick the trap up ever so slowly and carry it very slowly without bumping it. Slide it into the barrel gently. Keep the garbage can, sack with dryer hose, and rubber reducer ring handy. They can all be re-used. Sometimes the skunk will scratch the plastic covering the trap so I have to recover the trap every two or three skunks, but that is a ten minute job at best. Once the skunk is trapped the entire operation takes less than 20 min. to dispatch and dispose the skunk.

    Hopefully you don’t get sprayed, but if that tragedy should befall you, have handy a bottle of “Skunk-Off”. You can get it from a pet supply store. It is an enzyme that neutralizes the mercaptans (the class of chemical that makes up the potent skunk smell – it’s in the same family of compounds as the odor used to scent natural gas) right away. It is the only method that we have found effective on dogs that get sprayed. Follow the directions on the container. It truly works very well.

    I hope this extra information helps. It is an effective, humane method of trapping and dispatching skunks without getting sprayed.

    • dbsupply

      Thanks for your insight. Guess there isn’t just one way to trap a skunk, who knew?

      • therealzircon

        Indeed, I’m sure there could be many variations on this basic technique, but it’s essentially the same one that Laura posted except with a few extra precautions to avoid being sprayed with skunk scent. Matter of fact, I just took care of a skunk this morning using exactly the procedure as outlined. I got the idea from a professional trapping outfit and modified it to suit what I had available. I might add that an automobile exhaust won’t “melt” the plastic hose. By the time it travels all the way from the engine through the catalytic converter, through the muffler, and out the tailpipe it is warm, but not hot, so long as the engine is just idling.

        • lauraimprovises

          Thanks for all the extra details of options. You have certainly killed more skunks than I have! We have had to kill 4 more since then, though. First year in our 20 here that this has been an issue.

    • JM

      I’m trying this method when I catch the skunk under my deck. I live in the suburbs so I’m wondering where I can dispose of the skunk when finished. Either way I appreciate your time in explaining this method.

      • therealzircon

        Wrap it up in a bag and take it for a ride in the deep woods. Please don’t dump it in your garbage can. When the trash collector comes along and it goes into his truck that has a compactor, all that scent is going to be squeezed out and you will have a furious trash collection agency on your hands.

        • JM

          Great point.. When dealing with skunks you can easily/quickly become very selfish.. I actually just got off the phone with the city of Edmond and they actually loan solid walled traps to use and they will come pick the skunk up and relocate. I’m going to try that first and will resort to operation “Exhausted Skunk” ;) later if need be.

  • vivi

    i also caught a skunk in the trap that was supposed to be for a groundhog…. The first time we caught a skunk about 2 weeks ago, we let it go,,, We still didnt get the groundhog,,,, but instead the same stupid skunk got trapped again. He’s been in the trap since sunday.. We covered him with a towel,,, he keeps chewing on it and digging .. the trap is half way filled with dirt… How long do you think before he dies????

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  • Rick Shonsite

    This is my preferred method of killing them. Works great!
    Although I bagged one earlier this week with a good shoot using my .22