Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Clay residents facing one very foul smelling invader

J-E News Editor
The city of Clay is facing one very smelly problem.
“I’ve been talked to about a skunk problem,” said Mayor Rick Householder. “People want to know what we can do about it. We’ve even had a lady come to meetings and talk about that in the past, but there is nothing we can do as a city.”

Mayor Householder and several council members even said that they had dealt with skunk problems themselves. Councilman Todd Vanover said that he removed nine skunks from his property a year and a half ago.
“I have heard about it,” said Conservation Officer Josh Gunn. “It’s been a problem for longer than two years.  I’m not sure if it’s a bigger problem there than anywhere else or not, but Clay is the only place I’ve heard about it.”
According to the Humane Society, it is more likely that you will smell a skunk than see it. Persistent, faint musk smells under a building or woodpile may suggest that a skunk has taken up residence. You may also find small, shallow holes in the lawn, similar to those made by squirrels, which are a result of a skunk foraging for grubs. You may also find plants knocked over or damage to the lower leaves or ears of ripening garden crops, including corn.
Skunks are attracted to things like garbage and pet food left out at night and convenient denning sites, such as wood and rock piles, elevated sheds, openings under concrete slabs and porches, and access to crawl spaces under houses.
The Humane Society suggest several steps to prevent a skunk from taking up residence on your property:
•Remove attractants from around houses.  This includes securing trash, feeding pets indoors, or if fed outdoors, removing food immediately after pets eat.
•Do not over water lawns. Skunks dig for grubs in lawns when wet soil conditions bring grubs close to the surface. 
•Add light and noise to make an attractive (dark, quiet) space unattractive.

Preventing a skunk from taking up residence is the most effective technique, but once they do move into a den, the risk of getting sprayed makes getting rid of them more challenging.
“I have been told to put mothballs around the areas that the skunks are hanging out and they will leave,” said Gunn. “I’ve told several people to do it and to call me back if it didn’t work. No one has ever called.”
The Humane Society suggests tolerance. On their website they say: “Because of the lingering odor, and fear of being sprayed it may be hard for some people to tolerate skunks living under a deck or old shed. But skunks need such shelter when they are most vulnerable (during the coldest parts of the winter and when raising young).
“How many skunks are killed each year simply because of fear is not known, but it is surely a large number. This is unfortunate because it is common knowledge among those who work closely with these animals, that it actually takes a lot to get sprayed.
“The nocturnal habits of skunks, their unaggressive nature, and the generally beneficial role they play in nature by consuming insects and rodents are all good reasons to leave them alone until they have moved on their own accord (which they readily do) or can safely be harassed away from an area where they are not wanted.”
For those people not willing to risk being tolerant, they suggest:
•Repack den holes  (when the skunk is not present) with leaves, straw or other material to see if the skunk gets the message to move elsewhere.
•Mild repellents, such as used kitty litter or predator urine, can be placed near or inside the den to one side so the skunk has to pass them to get out; commercial or homemade capsaicin or castor oil repellents may also be tried.

“I would also suggest that they put a call to local trappers to come in and trap them this winter,” suggested Gunn. “Make a game of it and give out some kind of prize for whoever traps the most in city limits.”

Tradition has it that the best method to remove a skunk’s odor is a tomato juice bath, but experts say this isn’t true. While tomato juice can, along with vinegar, and any other mildly acidic solution, wash off the oily spray to at least reduce the smell, it will not actually remove it.
Commercial products are available from veterinary and pet supply outlets, but for a home remedy that will neutralize skunk spray odor on dogs, skin (not eyes), and some clothes,  the Humane Society says to mix:
•1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
•1/4 cup baking soda 
•1 teaspoon liquid soap (laundry or dish washing soap)

Wearing rubber gloves, use immediately, and outdoors, if at all possible, to keep the volatile skunk spray out of your house. Rinse after five minutes and repeat if needed.
Warning: Do not store this mixture—use it immediately after mixing. If left in a closed container, the oxygen gas released could make the container burst. This mixture can bleach fur and hair color.
Clothes or other fabric items sprayed directly may be best thrown away. Fabric that picked up the smell indirectly, as well as buildings and similar surfaces, can be washed with one cup of liquid laundry bleach per gallon of water. (This may bleach colors.)

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