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Skunk Population Swells in Northbrook

With skunk season set to begin in September, grubs in area lawns draw animals to subdivisions.

Skunk sightings—and with them that familiar and foul odor, unfortunately—are set to rise in Northbrook in the coming weeks.

The reason? September through early November is when the animals feed in preparation for the winter. In particular, it’s also the time of year when grubs, the larva of Japanese beetles and a well-known skunk delicacy, are present in area lawns, according to , Northbrook’s animal control officer. 

But fear not, says Manski, there are ways to discourage skunks from visiting a home's yard. First, check the lawn for evidence of grubs. It’s not hard, because Japanese beetle larva create silver-dollar-sized holes in the grass. (By eating the grubs, skunks are actually providing homeowners with a service, Manski notes.)

While residents often credit damage actually done by raccoons to skunks, the latter are significantly less destructive when foraging for food, according to Manski. That said, if homeowners would like to avoid all of the above, they might wish to have their lawn treated for grubs.

While they are at it, Manski recommends vacuuming up fallen seeds under bird feeders and fruit under trees such as crabapples, so skunks will have to go elsewhere to dine. 

Northbrook’s website also contains plenty of helpful information for residents with questions about how to deal with skunks.

As Patch reported in February, . How busy will the peak season be this year? The jury is still out.

Skunk populations escalate roughly every five years due to population fluctuations, according to Manski. Unfortunately, this year (late 2010-2011) is one of those years.

“As with any species, when that happens, they sort of self-regulate after time,” said Manski, who notes that the skunk’s only predator is the Great Horned Owl.

Because of the rise in calls regarding skunks over the past year, in February the village board considered a change in policy regarding the handling of skunk complaints. One idea was for the village to hire a contractor to help trap and remove skunks, perhaps at a lower overall cost for each skunk removed than what individual residents pay when hiring private firms to do the job.

But as peak skunk season approaches, village trustees have not adopted any new polices regarding skunks, according to Dan Kaup, assistant to the village manager. Callers inquiring about skunk removal will once again be directed to private pest control services. 

Where and how active skunks are at present in Northbrook depends on who one asks.

“They have been a problem in years past, but nothing in the last year or two, hardly seen or smelled one recently,” said Butternut Lane resident Dave Flinn. “Seemed like there was a lot of skunk road kill a few years ago, but [I] have not seen as much recently.”

According to Manski, skunks really only spray when in danger and usually display telltale warning signs before doing so. That includes grunting, stomping their front feet and finally, spinning around.

“It’s never really safe to let one’s dog out without first turning on a yard light and making some noise, for instance clapping one’s hands, first,” Manski said. 

Given predictions about this year’s skunk population, residents may want to do that the next time they have to take the garbage out after dark.

Elizabeth Manaster August 23, 2011 at 12:14 PM
Well there's one less skunk on Shag Bark Lane. However my Akita, Alaska (and the rest of us!), will remember him well! I actually felt badly - the little skunk was kind of cute. If given their distance, they don't really do any harm.
Barbara Joseph August 23, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Our neighborhood is filled with skunks! It seems most dogs have already been sprayed. Being vigilant & turning in lights in the yard before letting dogs out will hopefully help!!
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 23, 2011 at 03:05 PM
I nearly ran into a skunk while running on Walters Avenue one evening around dusk. Way too close for comfort!
Glenn Wall August 23, 2011 at 03:11 PM
I had similar encounters with one on Voltz and a family of three in front of Northbrook Jr. High while biking in recent weeks. But I haven't witnesses a spraying attempt since a similar run-in on a forest preserve path last year.
Sandy August 23, 2011 at 06:27 PM
It's a stinky situation, isn't it?
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 23, 2011 at 09:05 PM
That's punny.

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