As you probably know by now, skunks are a top-tier pest thanks to their spray, which permeates even the most seemingly airtight of spaces. Cars, houses, even pets, and people are no match for the spray of a frightened skunk. If you relate to any of this, as most of us unfortunately do, you might be in search of some tried and true ways to repel skunks.
Skunks have a very good sense of smell and hearing to make up for their poor eyesight. You can take advantage of this sense by using smells that they dislike- specifically coffee grounds. Dumping spent coffee grounds near your garden or yard signals to skunks that humans are nearby and keeps them away.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of using coffee grounds as a skunk deterrent, let’s talk about what a skunk is, why they spray, and what the best use of this deterrent method is!
Why Are Skunks Near My Home in The First Place?
Skunks are nocturnal creatures whose main source of food can be found among insects and their ground-dwelling larvae.
Not only do they eat these creatures like beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, worms, but they also feed on more pesky critters such as yellowjacket wasps.
Though their spray is one of the peskiest scents out there, skunks actually do a lot in terms of helping us humans with our pest control. Skunks are known to dine on rodents and other animals considered as pests, such as mice, rats, moles, shrews, ground squirrels, and other ground mammals.
In frigid weather, skunks rely on stored body fat rather than hibernation but are also found to become dormant or semi-active during this period of time. Therefore, a lessened regimen of activity combines with stored food supply to allow these mammals to avoid lower temperatures.
Essentially, if you have any of these animals or attractants on your property, skunks are likely to wander in and check out the area. This isn’t even mentioning where they like to take shelter on your property as well.
If you’re interested, you can read our popular article on why you may be smelling skunk at night here.
Why Do Skunks Spray?
Skunks do not spray unprovoked. In fact, healthy skunks will only spray when they feel threatened. Whether or not this is due to being surprised or to be used as a method of reciprocated threat to a predator depends on the situation.
Fortunately for us all, skunks do not like the scent any more than we do. Imagine a world where they didn’t mind that smell… yikes.
Some will tell you that using tomato juice to remove the scent of skunk spray (funny, skunks can actually eat tomatoes! More on that here) is a surefire method when trying to deal with this smelly problem. You’ve probably seen this trope in movies or shows, there was a joke one time about characters drinking the juice instead of bathing in it, so this is clearly a popular old wives’ tale.
However, the real reason that skunk spray begins to stop smelling so bad is due to a temporary condition known as olfactory fatigue.
Olfactory fatigue is a condition wherein the smell of skunk spray is so intense that the human nose stops distinguishing between that and other scents for a while. Hence, the tomato juice vs. skunk spray fallacy.
Basically, our sense of smell protects us from being overwhelmed by a scent that is considered bad. Pretty cool, if you ask us!
How Do Coffee Grounds Repel Skunks?
It’s true! Coffee grounds that you were planning to dispose of anyway could very well aid you in solving your smelly skunk situation.
Coffee grounds have a bitter scent that, unlike black pepper and capsaicin (or chili peppers), do not irritate the sinuses of skunks but still do deter them. This scent is strong enough to bother skunks in a less abrasive way while letting them know that humans are in that area (similar to how urine repels skunks) and that they should not try to venture into that space.
Not only are coffee grounds a good way to deter skunks, but they are also fantastic when it comes to composting. Use coffee grounds in your garden to not only keep skunks away but to nourish your garden and keep other rodent-like creatures out of the way, as well.
Especially if you are already an avid coffee drinker (which, let’s be honest, a lot of us are), this is a great solution that has many benefits all rolled up into one!
How to Use Coffee Grounds to Repel Skunks
First – make some coffee.
Honestly, that’s the HARDEST part of this whole process! Once you make your coffee, you can go and dump the spent (used) coffee grounds out on your garden, under your deck, or near your tree line to signal to skunks that humans are nearby.
You should repeat this action daily or every time you drink coffee. More on that below!
Will Coffee Grounds Repel Skunks Long Term?
Ah, yes. The age-old question.
Will coffee grounds ACTUALLY repel skunks long-term? Well, quite possibly. However, that simply depends on how much coffee you drink!
If you keep reapplying coffee grounds outside daily or even every other day, then the skunks will most likely keep away.
There is always the possibility of habituation happening, where skunks can get used to the smell and then realize that humans won’t actually pose them any harm.
In order to prevent that, you should pair the coffee ground method with our guide on using motion sensor lights to repel animals and wildlife, which you can find here.
What Is The Best Skunk Deterrent?
This is a question that can be answered in many ways, and we are going to give you a few perspectives here. Skunks have no registered repellents, though skunks hate certain scents (link to our guide) and are commonly deterred by these things.
However, if you are looking for some sustainable ways to recycle household products and keep skunks just a bit further away from your property, then let’s get to it!
Here are some of the common deterrents outside of coffee grounds that you’ll find useful if there are skunks on your property:
This one is a very effective skunk deterrent for a few reasons. Black pepper uses piperine, a spicy component that can mess with the sinuses if used in too large a quantity.
Ever sniffed some black pepper while cooking and immediately sneezed? Maybe you felt a bit of burning in your sinuses? If this hasn’t happened to you, you probably have a hidden superpower. The point is that black pepper is enough to mess with us humans from time to time, and skunks have a sense of smell that puts ours to shame.
Black pepper to skunks is actually way worse than it ever would be to you or me. It is enough to infuriate the sinus cavities of skunks, so it’s needless to confirm that they surely stay away from the stuff when possible.
Capsaicin is a similar ingredient to black pepper and happens to be the active spice-adding component in chili peppers. Like black pepper, this one really bothers skunks and will ensure that they are not likely to bug you much after this scent pops up.
To maximize the effects of the spicy, skunk-repellent nature of these two peppery items, you can always create a mixture of the two.
We recommend obtaining the raw ingredients and spreading them across your property or, if you prefer, checking out these options.
Try this Naturevibe Botanicals Organic red chili powder which specifically mentions capsaicin!
Not a huge coffee drinker, but still looking for a more natural solution to keep those skunks far away? Try another scent from an edible product that you are likely already using in one way or another.
Citrus peels are a common part of the food waste that we try to utilize in other ways. You may already be composting these scraps, so why not first repurpose them and then compost them a while later?
If the store-bought products and other remedies you are using are not quite sufficient, these natural methods may just work best for you!
Lemons, oranges, limes, and other citrus-based fruits typically smell appealing to humans, right? Right. However, skunks do not agree with this sentiment and will avoid these scents when possible.
It all goes back to how sensitive their sense of smell is, compared to ours. Some of the stronger scents that are so pleasing to us are, simply put, too overpowering for the liking of a skunk.
So, save some more money and create your own natural concoction of citrus peels and juices to spread around any areas you anticipate skunks migrating toward. This will help you solve the issue before it becomes a full-fledged situation.
Long Term Solution: Keeping Skunks Away With Habitat Modification
So, we know now that scents do indeed help to repel skunks, thanks to their strong sense of smell and their aversion to some of the scents that humans tend to know and love.
Using those coffee grounds, or the citrus peels, or spices that may be leftover from homemade chili, are great steps when you need a little extra push to deter those neighborhood skunks. There is, like most things, a ton of variety in which scents to use and how much will do the trick.
Those powerful scents that work against wasps are recommended in repelling them out of your property, but with aromas, there is SO much variability; how much you use, how strong the oil or plant is if you applied it in the right spot, and more.
That being said, you’ll likely want to turn this activity into a routine- taking your daily coffee grounds and spreading them, saving the limes you used at dinner and scattering them where you need them, that sort of thing.
It is important to not rely on scents alone so that you won’t have a sudden shift in your situation if you skip the coffee for a day or two (unthinkable, we know) or forget to pick up some more limes at the grocery store. A backup plan is always something we can get behind!
The best way to deter skunks from your space is by practicing a bit of habitat modification.
See the below examples to find out some extra tips that could help you prevent a skunk invasion.
Maintain A Clean Backyard
Everyone wants a clean backyard, right? At the very least, it’s appreciated when your yard looks clean, kept up, and is not home to a host of pesky critters.
You’ll want to remove fallen fruits, piles of branches that could act as sleeping quarters for skunks (or other small-mid-sized animals) and keep your space in order.
The more signs of human use, the less likely skunks and most other pests are to come to bother you. This, of course, varies, but you can look up how to handle other types of pests using the search bar here.
As much as you are able, cover all your foods and beverages so as to avoid attracting these furry creatures any more than usual. This way, you will be able to avoid your party, quiet afternoon on the porch, or family dinner outdoors without the fear of a smelly surprise coming your way.
Following this step, we have another highly suggested action for you, which is bum bum bum… covering up your waste at all times!
Cover Your Garbage Bins
This procedure may be common sense, but it is surprisingly not a common practice to some.
Simply covering your garbage bin can do absolute wonders for you when it comes to pests of any size, sort, or tenacity. This will help you avoid skunk issues but also makes it less likely that you will encounter raccoons, coyotes, mice, and insects.
Not yet convinced? Covering your garbage is one of the simplest acts that you can do, which has some of the most immediate results when you are trying to keep the animal kingdom out of your space.
To maximize your skunk deterrent efforts, make sure to cover any waste in your space.
Skunks are attracted to garbage, and covering it up minimizes the chance that a skunk will be drawn to your property. Remember, this keeps other pests away, too!
Secure Your Under-Deck Space
So, aside from garbage being attractive to skunks, they are also always on the hunt for a cozy new den. Avoid the possibility of them making use of your space under decks, porches, or other structures by including some mesh fencing like this Tenax multi-purpose netting.
If you find out that there’s a skunk infestation under your deck, call a professional to handle that for you or to provide you with some guidance for the next steps that you can take.
A Coffee A Day Keeps The Skunks Away
Well, that’s all we have for now, but we hope that these tips get tucked into the back of your mind for a time when you might need them most.
Remember that while skunks do not spray unless they feel threatened, your curious pet or child may rile them up and cause a stinky scene- so be prepared and take some steps to avoid this!
It might be frustrating to have skunk problems at home, but they can be deterred using many methods, scents, and even a combination of approaches like we discussed above.
But again, to maximize all of your efforts, don’t forget to always maintain a tidiness across your property and think twice before pitching those coffee grounds in the trash bin.
Thank you for reading!
I hope this article helps you keep these smelly critters at (at least) an arm’s length.
University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agricultural and Natural Resources. Neb Guide.
Wood, W. F. (1999). The history of skunk defensive secretion research. The Chemical Educator, 4(2), 44-50.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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