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Skunks Are a Plentiful Nuisance on the North Shore

As grub season peaks in New Trier Township, the stinky wildlife are more likely to be digging up people's lawns and ending up as road kill.

After several years on the rise, the population of skunks in New Trier Township appears to either be continuing to rise or holding steady, according to those who monitor the pungent black and white critters in North Shore villages. 

“It’s way up there,” said Katie Sweeney, Glencoe’s community service and animal control officer, regarding the current population of skunks in her village. “The (Illinois) Department of Natural Resources is not exactly sure why.”

Sweeney said the mild winter and apparent lack of an outbreak of a disease that depletes the skunk population, like distemper, are likely contributing factors. As is a the current bountiful crop of grubs, the larva of the Japanese beetle, which skunks and other area wildlife feed on to fatten up for winter. 

The combination of grubs in area lawns, and wildlife digging them up and causing damage in the process has led to a spike in Glencoe complaints, though skunks are perhaps the least destructive hunters of grubs, Sweeney maintains. Homeowners looking to avoid such damage by any animal can find numerous commercial treatments available at garden centers to avoid grub-related lawn damage. 

According to Sweeney, animals suspected of being sick or injured are removed by the village. Alive or dead, they are tested for rabies by county wildlife biologists. No such animals have surfaced in Glencoe this year. The only complaints Sweeney has heard from dog owners, whose pets have been sprayed by skunks, have been from her friends. Glencoe patrol officers have reported seeing an average of 6-7 of the white striped animals per night, which according to Sweeney is on the high side.  

Re-Striped Skunk

Northfield resident, Bill Wallace, who walks for exercise, said the scent of skunks has been commonplace near his home this year in the early evening and he has had numerous skunk sightings when walking.

In fact, Wallace spied one recently digging on a lawn on Bristol Street near Winnetka Road, and a skunk carcass near Winnetka and the river just by the bridal path on the Winnetka Road that had apparently been painted over by a crew while they were re-striping lines near the side of the roadway. Wallace said he saw a man photographing the unusual scene. 

 “There was a dead skunk that the road painters had just painted over while painting the road,” Wallace said. “The guy taking the pictures was saying it had been painted over. I did not want to go over and check out the dead skunk. It didn't smell much anymore but still. ... I took his word for it.”

In early September, there was also a report of a skunk getting stuck in a window in the Northfield police blotter. 

Wilmette Police do not employ an animal control officer. Calls to the village about skunks may be tracked one of three ways: as a general call; a wild animal call; or a skunk call. So, according to Wilmette Commander Patrick Collins, the department does not know how many calls about skunks specifically it has received this year. The village contracts with Evanston Police animal control for calls regarding injured or sick wildlife on public roadway or public property.

Wilmette resident, Ed Meyers, said he almost ran over what he believed to be a skunk last week near the Wilmette-Evanston border, while he was driving south on Ridge Road near Sarkis restaurant. “It was dark, but the thing looked more like a skunk than a raccoon. That's my only brush with North Shore Skunks lately,” Myers said. 

Winnetka, Kenilworth Didn't See Rise in Skunk Complaints

According to Kenilworth resident Nydia "Nan" Hohf, neither she nor her neighbors have seen, or smelled, a skunk in the vicinity of their Sheridan Road homes this year, though the area attracts an abundance of wildlife and she has seen skunks there in the past. 

When asked about skunks in his village, Winnetka Deputy Police Chief Joe Pellus said there hasn’t been a rise in skunk complaints this year, though his department has received plenty of animal-related calls this year, most pertaining to dogs off of their leashes.

As in Wilmette, wildlife-related calls in Winnetka aren’t categorized or recorded by animal so a percentage of just how many are skunk related would be difficult to determine. Pellus said village officials pay special attention to skunk sightings made during the day. Often, though not always, such animals are sick or injured. 

Have you seen a spike in skunks lately? Is your lawn suffering from grub season and the wildlife that attracts? Let us know in the comments section below.

Marilyn Magnusson October 23, 2012 at 12:02 PM
I probably am an exception but I don't consider the two skunks who visit our backyard regularly a nuisance. We make noise before we let our dogs out at night and have not experienced a problem.
NHL October 23, 2012 at 01:32 PM
grubs/skunks destroyed my backyard lawn this year. threw down grub killer earlier in the season, but apparently, it was ineffective... once the skunks started digging up my lawn, i threw down another treatment---it slowed the destruction down, but didn't completely stop it.... the drought didn't help either....
Bonnie Larson October 28, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Yes, I also had a big skunk digging up my backyard early one afternoon. A Northfield policeman came and chased him out by squirting him around the yard with a hose until the skunk found the gate. My hero!

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