Blog: Skunk Under My Shed

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Skunk Under My Shed - Tuesday, June 13, 2023
For probably a few years now, various nocturnal critters have taken up residence under my shed as a place to sleep during the day. This usually would happen for a few months before they'd leave to go someplace else. I'd become aware of their presence when seeing a hole at the base of the shed, and I'd fill in the hole only to find it dug out again the next morning.

Alas, when the previous owner had the shed constructed, she didn't opt for a concrete base. I can't say I blame her; that probably would've added a few thousand dollars to the project. Nevertheless, the shed having a raised foundation has made it easy for animals to dig under the metal skirting and make their way underneath.

The most recent squatter has been the neighborhood skunk. Now I don't know if it's just one skunk, but I've seen a skunk around the neighborhood and in our yard, and I saw him disappear under the shed one night when I heard noise in the backyard and went out to investigate. Plus, we could smell him at least one night a week.

Now skunks are supposedly beneficial in the garden, so I didn't mind him visiting, but I didn't want him living here. He was also occasionally leaving droppings that I resented picking up. I knew he was going out at night to roam the neighborhood and then crawling back under the shed before morning. Filling in the hole didn't deter him at all, as he would just easily dig it out again. Neither did filling/blocking the holes leading to the neighbors' yards. If I blocked the hole with a board or brick, he would just push it aside. If I used heavier stuff, he would just dig a new hole. One night I heard rustling and went outside to try to scare him off, and I saw him leave by wriggling through the mere 2-inch gap under the side gate. I didn't even think that was possible.

But he kept returning, despite me going out multiple nights to try to scare him off. One night, he ran to the other side of the house where there is no gap under the gate. And then he just froze there, with no way to get out. He probably could've sprayed me if he wanted to, though I tried to not get too close. I ended up going around to the front yard and opening the gate, and then going back to the backyard to chase him out. He seemed as wary of me as I was of him.

Despite all this, he kept returning to the shed in the wee hours of the night. Maybe this was all just a game to him. A challenge to outwit the silly human. So, to raise the stakes, I tried making his stay as unpleasant as possible. I set up a motion-sensing garden light pointed right at the hole. I stomped around inside the shed during the day. I slipped my spare phone underneath to play hours of podcasts to keep him awake. But nothing worked. The hole kept reappearing. I even set up a security camera so that I could catch him coming and going.

One night when he was out, I slipped a dish of ammonia under the shed. Skunks supposedly hate the smell, associating it with urine from potential predators. A few hours later, the camera caught the skunk coming back and being very hesitant to go back under the shed. He would start to poke his head into the hole, tail raised high and ready to spray, and then run away a few times.

Here's one such picture of him ready to strike the unknown predator. Or maybe he just wanted to moon the camera.

Skunk going under the shed

But finally, he figured out what the smell was and then crawled back underneath for his bedtime. The jig was up.

I was really annoyed by this point, but I was impressed by his tenacity. I knew that if I really wanted him gone, I would have to stop relying on half-measures and instead focus on complete physical exclusion. That worked well when I installed a chicken wire fence around the planter box to deter cats from pooping there. For the shed, I wanted something that felt bulletproof. So in the spirit of overcomplicated solutions, I decided that burying a contiguous line of cinder blocks around the perimeter of the shed was the way to go. Since the blocks would be buried just below the surface, this would extend the skirting of the shed 8 inches down and also 8 inches outwards. I knew that skunks will dig shallow holes to get under something, but they avoid burrowing.

So I took measurements and ended up ordering 29 double-wide cinder blocks from Home Depot. I was surprised at how many things they can deliver. The day of, a semi truck with a flatbed trailer loaded with several pallets arrived. There was a forklift mounted at the end of the trailer. The guy lowered the forklift and then used it to pick up my pallet and set it in the place I directed.

I felt like the king of the world, being able to have any construction materials I wanted delivered on demand!

Cinder blocks on a pallet

It was a workout for me to just get all the blocks to the backyard, as each weighed around 40 pounds. I had to keep the pallet, as the guy said Home Depot would charge me if I called them to pick it up.

It took several weeks, a few hours at a time whenever I could find time, to completely trench around the shed and bury all the blocks. I had to excavate thoroughly so that each block would fit neatly with a minimal gap between the block and the skirting. But when I was installing the blocks on the final side of the shed, I realized that it didn't seem like the skunk had been visiting for a while. The board I had covered the hole with hadn't seemed to move for a couple weeks. Sure enough, I filled the hole in with dirt and it was never dug out again. Maybe the skunk saw what I was doing and knew he needed to leave before I blocked him inside. He had basically one-upped me on everything else thus far, so I knew he was intelligent and understood what was going on. He apparently knew when to fold.

So at last, I won't have to worry about any critters getting underneath the shed again. The next step will be to properly grade the soil so that water runs away from the shed, and then to put down landscape fabric and rock mulch to prevent weeds from growing there. That will save me a lot of weed pulling every year.

I know the skunk is still coming into the yard, at least sometimes, since I saw the garden lights come on one night and saw him ambling around. He's welcome to come by and eat whatever garden pests he wants. I'm just glad that he's no longer here to stay. I haven't found any more poop to pick up, either.

Maybe one night if I see him again, I'll go out just to say hi.