ASHTABULA — Forget the groundhog! Ashtabula County’s sure sign of spring is the skunk.

The first warm day, skunks emerge from their dens giving off their distinctive musky scent when startled or frightened, said Bob Clark of Ashtabula, owner of Trapper Bob’s Nuisance Trapping.

“I start getting calls about Valentine’s Day,” he said. “I’ve had four calls so far.”

Steve Lanham, animal control officer for the city of Ashtabula, is also on skunk alert.

“We are really starting to get into skunk season,” he said. “I just got a call about a big old skunk under a lady’s porch.”

Mid-February and March are the breeding season for Ohio’s skunks, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division. Adult males are very active during this mating season and travel widely in search of a receptive female. Litters of four baby skunks, called kits, are then born in May and June.

During this courtship and mating period, large numbers of skunks end up as roadkill on roads and highways. But if you have a skunk problem, Clark will come out with his specialized trap so the skunk can’t raise its tail to spray. 

While skunks keep trappers and local animal control officers busy this time of year, Lanham said he’s not a nuisance trapper and is available only in emergencies.

“Too often people call and think I’m going to trap 30 skunks,” he said. “If you have multiple skunks, call a trapper.”

Here’s some tips from the experts to keep skunks away:

• Remove nuts, berries, and other natural food sources. Skunks are scavengers, so they’ll eat anything nutritious they can find. If you have trees that produce nuts, berries, apples, cherries or other fruits, clean them up by raking your yard.

• If you keep an outdoor pet such as a dog or cat, be sure to pick up any food or water. 

• Use a tray under your bird feeder to catch most of the seeds, and clean up stray seeds dropped by birds.

• Make sure lids on garbage cans are shut tight.

• Skunks like to make their homes under houses, porches and decks. Close off these spaces.

• Install lights in your yard. Skunks are nocturnal and don’t like bright lights.

• Ammonia deters skunks. Soak old rags with ammonia and place them under deck or porch.

• Citrus peels provide a natural repellent.

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