A Safe Skunk Trap

When a polecat took up residence on their property uninvited, the Kuykendall family built a skunk trap to safely capture and remove it.

| July/August 1980

  • 064 skunk trap - diagram
    Diagram shows the parts and method of assembly for the skunk trap.
  • 064 skunk trap - photo
    The skunk was surprisingly reluctant to leave the trap, but with a little mild encouragement ambled away to find a new shelter.

  • 064 skunk trap - diagram
  • 064 skunk trap - photo

Skunks are really pretty amiable, good little beings most of the time, and they're certainly ecologically important critters too. After all, polecats consume—among other things—rats, mice, insects, and reptiles (thus providing a portion of nature's own biological population control among those animals). The beasts clean up roadside carrion as well ... often getting run over while performing this nocturnal service, as motorists learn—by nose—when approaching the site of the accident.

The creature's obnoxious spray—which is the skunk's only defense against enemies—is stored in two nut-like glands encased in muscles on either side of its rectum. When quickly compressed by a flip of the tail—an almost automatic action on the frightened skunk's part—these organs eject an odoriferous liquid over a range of 10 to 15 feet and within an arc of 180 degrees. (Many authorities believe the animals can also expel the acrid liquid voluntarily when their glands become uncomfortably full.) The secretion is more than just unsocial, too. In fact, skunk spray is so potent that it can cause blindness if it enters a pet's or human's eyes!

A Pesky Problem

Skunks, being scavengers, are particularly attracted to garbage. Therefore, my open compost box proved to be a handy restaurant for a polecat that took up residence in our subdivision. The critter sprayed my nosy dog twice, rendering her unfit for human companionship ... and—equally disturbing—the skunk took nightly strolls through the thick bushes below our bedroom window, relieving its bulging scent glands and awakening us—noses shriveled and eyes watering—at 2:00 or 3: 00 a.m.

As winter came on there was some relief, for polecats "den up" on especially cold days (rather than actually hibernate). However, the first hint of sunshine tempts the critters out again, so—during a warm spell last December—when the odorous beast scattered composting eggshells over half our property, we determined to evict the skunk from our premises.

Using instructions supplied by a local Wildlife Regional Commission technician, my husband built a skunk trap from a 15-gallon grease can. On the container's open end, he attached a rectangular wooden frame which enclosed a sliding door. This portal was held above the opening by a wooden peg inserted in a small hole bored near the door's base. A nylon wire—attached to the peg—ran back over the can ... slid through an eye ring fastened to the ''top'' of the container (as the drum lay on its side) ... descended into the can by way of a small opening cut behind the ring ... threaded through a second eyebolt set in the trap's "floor" ... and was tied to a chunk of bait.

Any tasty tidbit, such as a piece of raw chicken can be used as a lure ... or softer bait, like cooked egg can be first enclosed in a mesh bag and then fastened to the line. When a polecat enters and pulls at the tempting morsel, the wire yanks the peg from the slot and the door drops like the blade of a guillotine to imprison the intruder.

4/3/2013 3:54:07 PM

Earlier this Spring I thought I had trapped a house cat in my live trap but found it to be a skunk when I reached down to pick up the trap. At 10pm there are few places open that sell enough tomatoe juice to eliminate the odor which is what I have always been told to use. However the local store (15 mile away) did have a bottle of LYSOL CONCENTRATE - remember the little brown bottle of Lysol every grandmother had in her cabinets - so I bought one and used it in the ratio of 1 Cup Lysol to 1 Gallon Water. I bathed in it (No, it does not burn anywhere). Then I washed my clothes and poured some in the machine. Then I wiped down all surfaces I had touched before bathing. Within the hour ALL SMELL was GONE!!!! Next morning I went to work and no one believed me that I had been sprayed the night before. So be more like your grandmother - keep that little brown bottle of LYSOL in your cabinet, I guarantee you will never seem me without one again!!



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