A Guide to Identifying Skunk Droppings in Your Yard
Skunks are more notorious for their spray than their poop, yet unless you startle them, that is something you – hopefully – will never have to endure. You are far more likely to spot and smell their poop than you are to fall victim to their spray. Unless of course they invade your yard and you have a dog or cat that is likely to chase them. If that happens, prepare for a stench like you have never smelled before!
They might look small and endearing, but if a skunk decides to make a home under your decking, or your porch they can become quite destructive and leave unpleasant mess. One sure sign that a skunk has made a home close by is if you start to notice their poop around your yard or lawn.
So what does skunk poop look like? how hazardous is it and how can you prevent them pooping in your yard? This post is focused on answering these questions and more.
What Does Skunk Poop Look Like?
Skunk poop is typically black or very dark in color, but can also be brown or gray. It has a very pungent smell, though not nearly as unpleasant as their spray.
If you come across Skunk droppings in your garden or on your lawn, you might mistake it for cat poop. They look very similar, being tubular in shape with blunt ends, and of a similar size. The average skunk poop is about a quarter to half an inch in diameter and one to two inches long, though they may lay more than one log at a time.
Skunk poop also looks similar to raccoon poop and at first glance you might suspect either unwanted visitor. Each can be equally disruptive to a yard or home. However raccoon poop, on closer inspection can be told apart. It is about two to three inches in length and half an inch in diameter, so longer and thicker than skunk poop.
Different Skunks, Different Poops
The size, shape and consistency of skunk poop does vary however, as there are different types of Skunk and they have a wide diet. The smaller hooded and spotted skunks do smaller poops than the larger striped skunk which is the most commonly known with its distinctive markings.
The wide diet of a skunk plays a part in determining the consistency of their poop. Softer logs may be clumped together in a mound, whereas more fibrous stools will be long and tubular, better formed.
New poop logs or stools are generally darker in colour with a shiny, glossy look to them. As they dry out over time they become lighter in color, lose their sheen and become more crumbly due to the removal of moisture. The consistency can help you to determine the age of the poop and if the skunk is still likely to be staying close by.
You can also tell if the poop has come from a skunk from prodding it with a stick. If it falls apart easily, or mushes, then it is from a skunk rather than a cat or a small dog.
What Is Skunk Poop Called?
As with most animals, Skunk poop is usually referred to as scat. Other terms include, stools and logs, referring to the shape. Skunk scat is ‘stool like’ as opposed to the ‘pellet like’ scat of the deer for example.
What Smells Worse, Skunk Poop Or Spray?
The two materials, skunk spray and scat, come from different sources with entirely unique compositions. The skunk spray originates from glands secreting an oily substance while the composition of faeces includes both digested and undigested food particles.
Skunk spray is made up of a number of chemicals, but the one that gives it its smell is thiol. Of the 7 main chemicals that make up the spray of the Skunk, 6 of them are sulfur-containing Thiol compounds that have a powerful and unpleasant odor.
Those unlucky enough to get a face full of skunk musk may temporarily experience blindness or become stunned. Other effects may include watering eyes, nasal irritation, and nausea. Even asthmatics may have difficulty breathing when exposed to the foul odor.
A skunk’s spray can be detected up to a mile away in concentrations as low as 10 parts per billion! So it’s safe to say that a skunks spray smells magnitudes more foul than their scat. That’s not to say that their scat is by any means nice though.
How To Remove Skunk Odour
According to one source – Neb Guide, issue G2100 – published by the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, chemist Paul Krebaum found a solution that changes thiols into neutral smelling acids, doing away with the stink. The formula for this solution is 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (fresh bottle), ¼ cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and 1-2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap.
You have to make the solution just as you are about to use it, you can’t make it in advance. Doing so and setting it aside in a closed container could result in an explosion from released oxygen!
How Often Do Skunks Poop?
Skunks generally poop once a day, but this can vary depending on the individual skunk’s diet and digestive system. They generally poop during the night when they are actively digging and looking for insects to eat. So it’s common that if a skunk is near by, that new scat will be seen in the morning once they have gone back to bed.
Where Do Skunks Poop?
Unlike raccoons that commonly poop in ‘latrines’ over and over again, with other individuals, skunks are far less picky about where they poop. If you have one living nearby, you may find their poop on your lawn, in flowerbeds, the base of hedgerows, or close by to their den.
Unlike some other animals, they have no concern about attracting predators with the scent of their scat, so make no efforts to burry it or deposit it far away from their home. They are more than prepared to fend off any threats with their spray.
Predators such as cougars, coyotes or foxes may take the risk, but one wrong move and it’s a face full of foul chemicals for them!
How To Spot Skunk Poop In Your Garden
As suggested above, skunks are not discriminative about where they poop in your garden or yard. It might look like cat poop, or a stool left my a small dog if you own one. But tell tale signs that it is a skunk poop include:
- High likelihood of undigested matter such as bones, seeds, feathers, fur and shells.
- Dark, shiny color
- Distinctive texture, will fall apart easily when poked with a stick.
How To Prevent Skunks From Making A Mess On Your Property
By taking some easy preventive measures, such as making sure trash is secure and removing pet food after your animal has finished eating outdoors, you can significantly decrease the chances of having an unwanted skunk encounter.
However, just as a skunk may use scent as a defensive mechanism against any threat, you can also use scent against them to keep them off your property. Three particular smells that are commonly successful in scaring skunks away include Citrus, ammonia, and mothballs.
You can soak cotton balls in ammonia and leave them around your yard, or use mothballs in the same way. If you have children though, it’s best to stick to citrus than these other chemicals as they can be harmful if ingested.
If you have a pet dog, their urine is full of uric acid and ammonia. Letting them pee in your yard can help to scare skunks away. Though probably best they pee around the periphery and don’t pee on the grass, as this can burn it in patches. Other predator urine will work too, but I don’t much fancy following a coyote or a wolf around trying to collect their urine!
How Dirty Is Skunk Poop?
Skunks are omnivores, and as such, they eat both plants and animals. They predominantly feed on insects and insect larvae, but will also consume a variety of other small creatures, including rodents, small lizards and frogs. They also have a fondness for birds, and particularly eggs. Skunks will also eat fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Around human settlement they are also commonly known to raid food bowls of pets that are fed outside, as well as unsecured trashcans.
Due to their diet, and how they digest different foods, bits of insects, seeds, fur, or feathers are often found in their faeces.
Skunk scat can contain a lot of harmful things, as we will get to below. It is important that it is not left to just degrade on its own, and removed as soon as possible. While infections caused in humans are rare, they do happen. But it is far more likely that any pet you have can become very ill from contact with skunk scat. Remove, clean and disinfect the area and wear protective gear when doing so.
Can You Get Sick From Skunk Poop?
Yes. Skunk poop is not only a danger to you, but it can also be a danger to your pets, particularly cats, dogs and horses. Some of the parasites and diseases that skunks can carry include:
- Hepatitis, (can affect both humans and dogs)
- Canine distemper (can cause life long problems)
- Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (causes extensive nerve damage to horses)
- Feline panleukopenia virus – (more often than not, this is fatal for cats)
That’s quite some list!
Some of these are particularly nasty for humans too. Listeriosis, also known as ‘brain fever’, starts with mild flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and diarrhea, but can quickly progress to paralysis and swelling of the brain.
Hepatitis is a virus that primarily targets organs essential for filtering blood such as the kidneys, lungs, liver and spleen.
Baylisascariasis roundworms are especially dangerous because they make their way into sensitive areas like the brain, causing neurological damage or even blindness.
Skunks can also be a carrier of rabies, which is particularly nasty, and if not treated urgently can also be fatal to humans.
Can You Use Skunk Poop In Your Garden?
It would not be recommended to use Skunk scat as fertilizer for your garden. Even a hot compost might struggle to kill some of the dangers present in their scat. The risks far outweigh the potential benefits, particularly if your pets manage to get hold of any. It’s a far better idea to remove skunk scat from your property and safely clean any areas where the scat may have been deposited.