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Skunks’ Digging Can Damage Lawns

By Chris Williams on July 24, 2013.

Skunk digging in the yard

Question

We’ve been finding lots of holes in our lawn. At first we thought they were made by insects of some kind but last night we happened to see what looked like a skunk in our yard. Do we actually have skunks around here and do they dig holes?

Answer

We do have striped skunks here in New Hampshire and Massachusetts (with the exception of the Elizabeth Islands and Nantucket). In fact, that’s the only skunk that we have. And unfortunately, yes it does dig holes in search of grubs, worms, and insects that it feeds on.

Skunks are active from dusk to dawn and can really mess up a lawn or a garden when digging for grubs. They use their large front claws to dig many small pits or cone-shaped depressions that are about 3-4 inches across. Like raccoons, they will sometimes roll back entire sections of sod while looking for insects. In summer, insects make up about half of a skunk’s diet, but they also feed on small rodents, birds’ eggs, snails, dead animals, fruit, and garbage.

Are You Attracting Skunks?

If this lawn damage has been going on for a while, the question is why is the skunk picking on your yard? You may just have an especially good crop of grubs in your lawn. Some grubs are the larval form of the Japanese beetle, so you would know whether you’ve had problems with that beetle feeding on your ornamental plants. You may have a lot of mice or voles nesting in your yard (maybe because of bird feeders). There may be other things that are drawing the skunk to your property, like available people food. Skunks will raid outside garbage cans, though not as readily as raccoons. Skunks also like to feed on corn, berries and fallen fruit so maybe you have fruit trees on your property with fruit that is ripe and on the ground right now.

The skunk may be denning on your property, or just visiting. Skunks have a wide home range and can travel up to 4 miles during their nightly excursions. Have a wildlife professional conduct an inspection and set up a trapping program to remove your skunk. At Colonial, our technicians are certified and licensed in Nuisance Wildlife Removal and Exclusion in MA and NH. Until then, if you have a dog, keep it inside at night when skunks are active. There is the obvious odor issue resulting from an encounter, and skunks can carry rabies.

Photo credit: aquave1vet / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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