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Another Skunk in the Barn


Last spring, around the middle of March, I discovered that a skunk had moved into the barn.  It was living in the small space within the pallets that keep our hay up off the ground.  Sadie had repeatedly tried to get at it through the pile of hay stacked on the pallets.  The skunk never sprayed and I had mistakenly thought it was a black and white cat that had been harassing our cats.  I discovered it was a skunk when I pulled the last bale of hay off the pallet and the little critter decided it was time to leave the barn.  While it didn't have the horrible chemical skunk spray smell it did have an odor.  It was a  musky damp smell that while not horrible, wasn't very pleasant either.  Back in early December I smelled that smell again.  As if there was any question about some varmint in the barn, Sadie suddenly wanted to crawl through the hay again to get to whatever was underneath.  OK.  So I have a skunk in the barn....

Last spring I didn't realize it was a skunk until it was ambling off out of the barn.  This time I suspected a skunk long before the hay was gone.  Now what to do?  I checked the internet to see what my options were. Turns out there is a wide spectrum of options - all the way from "Do nothing and they will wander away on their own." to "Dig 'em out and blast 'em."   I wasn't really happy with either of those so looked at the more centrist ideas.  We have a live trap that I could have baited but did I really want an angry skunk locked in a cage?  According to what I read online this is really a pretty effective way to get rid of skunks.  They tend to be nomadic anyway so catching one and releasing it someplace else isn't as big an ecological problem as it is with say possums or armadillos.  And supposedly if you approach with a dark tarp in front of you, you can cover the trap before the skunk sees you and decides to spray.  Turning the critter loose is also a dance but lots of people say it can be done effectively. 

I really liked the idea of discouraging the skunk by making it's chosen den less enjoyable.  If the underside of my hay is a lovely home then moving one skunk out only makes room for the next tenant. Odd but true - skunks have very good noses and don't like bad smells.  They also like a dark and quiet den to spend their days in.  Moth balls were suggested by several people as a deterrent but cats are very sensitive to the naptha and while I would love to keep stray cats away I don't want to impact my cats.  But I could get behind the lights and noise.

I bought a small radio with the intent of blaring loud music in the barn.  I would have chosen classical music but couldn't get good reception for that station.  Country music, however, was available on several stations that came in loud and clear.  I wanted the radio to be as close as I could get it to the hay so I hung it from a green panel using a horse fly mask.  Pretty MacGiver of me if I do say so myself.  For the next couple of weeks the lights were on and the music played loud and clear 24/7.

The goats were perfectly happy with the lights but not at all sure of the horrible loud noise coming from the barn.  They stayed happily out in the pens even when all the gates were open.

The musky smell was gone in about a week.  My hypothesis - the skunk has left the building!  I tested the hypothesis by turning Sadie loose in the barn.  She wandered around, jumped up and down on and off the hay but never found a smell that interested her.  Yes, the skunk had moved on!

The radio is still in place and of course the lights still work.  At the first sign of some odd critter in the barn both will get turned back on.  I really like having a plan!