That Stinks: Chicago Suburb Battles Feisty Skunk Population
Officials in one Chicago suburb are picking a fight with one of the smelliest creatures around — skunks.
Police in Vernon Hills, Illinois, assisted by a professional animal removal company, have captured nearly 30 skunks around the town in the past month after a large upswing in resident complaints since early September, according to reports. Police were forced to take action after several residents reported uncharacteristically aggressive skunks living near parks in the village.
“This is the time of year that the young of the family have grown up and the parents have thrown them out of the house,” Vernon Hills police Chief Mark Fleischhauer says. “So they’re wandering through the neighborhoods looking for places to eat and looking for new places to live (for the winter).”
Aren't skunks afraid of humans?
Though reports of aggressive skunks are becoming more common, Rebecca Fyffe, director of education and outreach with highly rated ABC Humane Wildlife Control & Prevention in Arlington Heights, Illinois, says those reports are likely exaggerated.
Skunks are docile creatures who want as little to do with humans as we do with them, Fyffe says.
“What’s happening is that skunks aren’t getting more aggressive; they are just getting more comfortable being around humans," she says. "That’s what happens when we start to inhabit some of the same spaces.
“Healthy skunks are never aggressive, they’re just losing their fear of humans and feel more comfortable just walking out in the open 15 to 20 feet from humans. Skunks can be a little cocky, too. They know they have what they have in their back end, and they’ll use it if they have to.”
A growing population
While skunks might not be any more aggressive than in the past, there are definitely more of them, Fyffe says. A rabies epidemic wiped out a large portion of the skunk population during the 1980s and 1990s with most skunks dying before their reproductive age, she says. Now that the epidemic has run its course, they’re beginning to make somewhat of a comeback.
Fyffe says the number of skunks trapped by ABC in the Chicago area jumped dramatically from 585 in 2010 to 949 in 2011. The yearly total has hovered near 1,000 each year since.
Still, those numbers don’t indicate an abnormal amount of skunks. “I wouldn’t call this an over-population of skunks,” Fyffe says. “I would just say we’re returning to pre-1980s levels.”
How to keeping skunks away
There are many steps homeowners can take to make their home and yard unattractive to skunks.
First, eliminate any and all food sources from outside the home. That means picking up any trash that could be seen as food to a skunk and keeping your garbage cans and recycling bins closed up tight.
Next, homeowners should seal up any areas large enough for a skunk or other small animal to find a home. For example, homeowners with a porch or stoop should seal the area underneath with either chicken wire, lattice or thin stainless steel sheeting. Sheds are another popular home for skunks, so make sure any doors or windows are sealed up tight.
“Basic household maintenance is the best way to exclude any kind of wildlife from around the home,” Fyffe says. “It’s pretty inexpensive in comparison to having to handle the problem once they’ve moved in and started to reproduce.”
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