Skunks: The Smelly Campground Visitors



I sat near the campfire,  waving away the swirling smoke, and occasionally roasting a marshmallow or two. The fire crackled and popped, and I felt my shoes, resting on the stone fireplace, becoming a little too warm. My grandfather plucked at his guitar and sang old country songs, while my sister and I stared out over the lake, watching the sun set. My mom dozed lightly in her lawn chair. In the distance I heard my father and my brother-in-law setting up tents for the night.

The peace of the evening was shattered by a sudden gasp from my sister. “SKUNK!” she hissed, pointing. My mother awoke, my grandfather put down his guitar, and we all looked westward and then froze, watching a moving white stripe that stood out against a black background. None of us would ever forget the time, two years previously, when my parents had been sprayed by a skunk. They had smelled for days!

Keep Skunks Away from Your Campsite

Skunks are, in fact, common pests for campers. While skunk bites may not be a big problem, skunk sprays are. In fact, skunks can spray accurately at distances of 10 feet, and slightly less accurately at distances of 20 feet. In either case, a single spray may be enough to make your friends and loved ones avoid you for a while.

However, skunks don’t spray randomly; their scent is their best defense, and they only carry enough scent for five or six uses. After they’ve depleted their supplies, skunks must wait approximately 10 days in order to replenish them. As a result, they save their sprays for times when they’re feeling truly threatened.

Nevertheless, the sight of those small black and white animals can set a camper’s heart thumping! So how can you keep skunks away from your campsite this summer? Try the following:

  • Keep food and garbage in tightly sealed containers. Skunks are omnivores, and love to explore your garbage. They’ll also happily munch on sandwiches or snacks left out in the open. So, be sure to keep all food and food waste in containers with closed lids, preferably out of the reach of hungry skunks.
  • Sprinkle cat and dog repellent around your campsite. Many pet stores sell granules of cat and dog repellent, and it turns out that these repellents are equally effective on skunks.
  • Create a homemade skunk repellent. Mix one quart of water, 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper, and 1/2 fresh  jalapeño pepper in a pot, and boil the mixture for approximately 20 minutes. Then, remove the  jalapeño pepper from the pot, and let the concoction cool. Finally, pour the mixture into a spray bottle, and spray the area around your camp.
  • Distribute vinegar soaked rags around your campsite. Ironically for animals that can release such foul odors, skunks are repelled by the odor of vinegar!
  • Use lanterns or other lights around the campsite. Skunks are nocturnal creatures, and will avoid well-lit areas.
What if you do see a skunk in your campsite? Often the best approach is to remain very, very still. You’ll know if a skunk is about to spray if you see it do something that resembles a little dance. If you see it begin to stomp its feet and turn around, then it’s time to run, or shut your eyes and be prepared to be skunked! If either you or your possessions are sprayed, applying a  mixture of  baking soda, dish washing soap, and hydrogen peroxide will often lessen the strength of the odor.


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