Deluxe Accommodations at the Skunk Hotel

Elmhurst resident wages ongoing war against these indigenous creatures.

In early February, after the Great Blizzard of 2011, little paw prints appeared in the snow on our front porch.

There was a collective sigh from the family: “Oh, no!”

A day or two later, the snow prints were accompanied by a strong whiff of skunk odor which permeated the first floor and basement of our home. Next to a downspout, a new hole under the porch was evidence that a skunk had burrowed its way under the porch. On the opposite side of the porch, there was a second small hole near the steps.

This was not the first time we had experience with skunks. A few summers ago, after our yellow labrador was sprayed in the face, we hired a skunk removal company, which captured several skunks near our front porch. Sparky had also been sprayed several years before, but we didn’t know where that skunk resided.

Following the previous expenditure of several hundred dollars for skunk removal, we attached a wire mesh sheet to the porch, dug down and out from the porch, covering the wire mesh with dirt, so that a metal mesh barrier would forever prevent skunks from returning to our skunk hotel. We were highly motivated to prevent skunks from returning as our guests. It all seemed to work until this winter.

For several weeks after the first skunk sighting this winter, I was engaged in a daily, futile battle. It called to mind images of Bill Murray doing battle with the gopher in "Caddy Shack," or an adult trying to figure out if he is smarter than a fifth-grader.

One evening, after seeing a skunk heading out across the front yard, I saw my chance and created a new barrier of rocks, stone and a large box extending out several feet from the hole near the downspout; at the same time large stone, wire mesh and plastic was placed to cover the hole near the stairs.

For a few nights in a row, there would be a whiff of odeur de skunk as the angry varmint tried to return. The next morning there was evidence of skunk burrowing across the entire porch barriers, but the castle defenses had kept him out.

Each night, the skunk would burrow, and the next morning more rocks, stone, plastic and mesh were added to the barriers. However, it was a makeshift defense because the ground was still frozen and covered with snow. The front yard started to look like a junk yard, as new barriers were erected each day.

One early evening after hearing what sounded like cat cries, I walked onto the porch and saw two skunks rolling around in the middle of Fairfield Avenue engaged in amorous activity. When the couple was finished, both skunks sauntered towards the porch seeking to return to the skunk hotel by separate entrances. I realized that the problem was bigger than a single skunk.

During the day, more bricks, rocks and plastic were added in attempts to fortify the castle defenses. During the night the skunks would burrow their way back. The skunks would stop their burrowing if spotted, but nonplussed, they would return a short time later to continue with their digging after humans went indoors.

Finally, after the skunks successfully burrowed 3 feet under a large box and below the porch, I called the city of Elmhurst. The person on the other end of the phone said the city couldn’t help, but gave the name of a recommended animal removal company.

The morning after the live trap was set against the porch, the first skunk was caught. Shortly before dawn, two skunks frolicked in the front yard near the trap, while a third tried to free its trapped colleague. At daylight, the three free skunks scattered across the neighborhood, leaving the captured skunk to be removed later that morning.

Just before dawn on day two, two skunks tried to burrow in under opposite ends of the porch, and a short time later a second skunk was caught in a trap.

On day three, skunk number three was caught.

On day four, skunk number four was caught.

A few days later, skunk number five was caught.

A few evenings later, skunk number six walked across our porch.  

Skunk number six currently remains free. It’s been about a week since skunk number six was first sighted, and he appears to have no interest in getting caught. We still haven’t received a final bill for the current skunk removals.

I understand that the city of Elmhurst is under a budget crunch, and may not have a lot of resources it can dedicate to skunk removal. However, the Illinois Department of Health notes that skunks are a common carrier of rabies in Illinois.

There are public health issues involved with a skunk infestation, so the city may want to reconsider whether it chooses to place the entire burden on homeowners to remove skunks from neighborhoods.

Our home is only about block from the mayor’s house. If our uninvited skunk guests could read, I would place a sign near our porch pointing towards the mayor’s house stating: “Deluxe accommodations, only a short walk from here.”

Smelly In Elmhurst March 20, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Our home has been skunked every night since Christmas Eve. Thank goodness our friends REALLY like us because we always smell like skunk. When our kids open their lockers at the end of the day the smell from their coats being closed up is overwhelming. We no longer have sleepovers or guests of any kind. Unfortunately we don't have the money to have a professional remove the culprits. A few years ago we had a raccoon hanging around in our yard and the city gave us a trap to set up ourselves. When we caught the raccoon the city animal control officer returned and took the trap with the raccoon in it. Does Elmhurst still have an animal control officer? If so what exactly is their purpose? Do they still have the traps and if so can residents borrow them? Does anyone have an suggestions?
Amber March 20, 2011 at 03:10 AM
ElmhurstStinks.com CHECK IT OUT! Report your Elmhurst Skunk sightings!
Cronan March 20, 2011 at 02:40 PM
www.Elmhurststinks.com THANK YOU! I have shared it on FB =)
Steve Pokin March 20, 2011 at 03:57 PM
Mr. Marcotte, I noticed in the accompanying illustration that you wear pink shoes that are almost ruby-red in color. Have you tried clicking your heels together three times while chanting "This is no place for your home" to make the skunks go away?
Leah Gleason March 20, 2011 at 05:56 PM
What a great website! Thank you to Jake Parillo for its development. I've lived in Elmhurst for less than four years. I came from a wooded suburb in Missouri, full of deer and other animals. But I have never experienced anything like the skunk situation in Elmhurst. Why is it that Elmhurst has so many skunks? What are the residents (or city workers) doing to draw skunks to our area? Is it really as simple as putting down grub protection? Should the city hire a professional skunk expert similar to cities that have hired a "ash bore" expert to deal with that problem? Help! I can't stand the smell!
Smelly In Elmhurst March 20, 2011 at 10:50 PM
I just tried it. Didn't work. Any other suggestions?
Smelly In Elmhurst March 20, 2011 at 11:07 PM
John Schuster March 21, 2011 at 01:44 AM
I ran over a skunk on Spring Rd. in Elmhurst. My BMW smelled horrible for weeks.
marko March 21, 2011 at 02:50 AM
Theres skunks in every suburb and I doubt they are worse in Elmhurst. Maybe you people should nut up and face the fact that in the suburbs there are skunks, raccoons and opossums and maybe you are the problem. Ive never heard of a skunk hurting anyone.
Cronan March 21, 2011 at 12:26 PM
There is no denying we have a problem, we need to find a solution. Tell my dog to nut up every time he gets sprayed in the face. Actually, that's probably what happens....
Mark O'Reilly March 21, 2011 at 04:02 PM
But this is ELMHURST and in ELMHURST, we expect our governments to take care of EVERY problem we have. Skunks? Call the City. Did you know in Hinsdale, if you call the city hall about skunks, they will send city workers out in BMWs and they will clear your skunks, wash your dog and paint your house? Flooding? It's not my fault I have a house with a recessed garage or picked a house in a FEMA flood zone or low lying area. It's the city's, county's, state's and federal governments faults that the sewers aren't big enough, Salt Creek can't take more water or green house gasses are causing weather patter shifts. Anybody's fault but mine. Ever notice how almost everyone wants smaller goverment, until a few skunks show up in their yards? We live on a prairie folks, or at least what was once a prairie. And on priaries, there are skunks. They don't leave just because we build homes too big for their lots and cover 70% of green space with impervious surface. And prairie's flood, but if the water has no place to go (natural order is for water to go DOWN), it pools. And it pools in low lying area. You can blame the city, you can blame the mayor, you can blame anybody you want. I suggest grabbing a mirror first. And nut up (good choice of words marko). WWII saw the greatest generation. Now, we have the greatest generation of people who expect others to solve their own problems while complaining about the speed in which others try to solve their problems.
Cronan March 21, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Seems to me people have no problem handling the skunk issue around their own houses....just don't fine them when they do....
Cronan March 22, 2011 at 03:01 PM
From Jake Parrillo - Founder of ElmhurstStinks.com. (email newsletter) First an update on stats from the site: We've had over 600 residents submit skunk sightings over the past 9 months! Keep telling your friends and neighbors. The City is noticing our effort and we've heard from the Mayor that he has visited the site! Second, the Elmhurst City Council elections are coming up in just 2 weeks. Some members of ElmhurstStinks.com have asked that we come up with a list of "Endorsed" candidates in the election who will BEST handle the skunk problem at City Hall. In order to do that, we are looking for 3 members to join our "Endorsement Board". This Board would select the candidates who our organization is going to endorse in the election. This endorsement will allow the candidates to tell the voting public that they're supported by us: the skunk-fighting residents of Elmhurst! If you are interested in helping us select the "ElmhurstStinks.com Endorsed Candidates", please let me know via email. The time commitment is VERY limited - and should take 10-15 minutes tops. The purpose of creating this "Endorsement Board" is to make the process fair and not allow any personal preferences or politics to creep into the process.
Cronan March 22, 2011 at 03:01 PM
We will be emailing the selected members a series of responses from local candidates and are asking these "Endorsement Board" members to select the candidate they think is worthy of our endorsement. We'd like a wide cross-section of Elmhurst to be represented, so please let me know if you are interested. This is a really fun way to get involved in helping get rid of the skunks! Thanks!
MIKE March 22, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Hey Paul, those pink shoes are pretty snappy. Great story !
Sam March 22, 2011 at 04:24 PM
I really hope this is a joke. Please, God, tell me this is a joke. Time to join the rest of us adults in the grown up world people.
Darlene Heslop March 22, 2011 at 05:45 PM
dear sam..., no...this is not a joke. this is really serious stuff. i live in downtown elmhurst...or should i say...the wild kingdom. i regularly see not only skunks, but racoons, possums, and an occassional deer. i have also spotted a red fox. what can be done to mitigate this? encourage residents to make sure their garbage cans have tight fitting lids on them and not to leave pet food outside. we also need stricter code enforcement when it comes to the restaurants and grocers with their own rubbish disposal. i, for one, believe we need an animal control person on our staff as it is the primary responsibility of the City to provide for the safety and well-being of its residents.
MIKE March 22, 2011 at 05:56 PM
To the Darlenes - This is an important topic for our alderman and the city in general to answer. Skunks are a real nuisance in Elmhurst, you all know that years ago in the 1800's before Elmhurst got the name, it was known as Skunk Hollow. Ture fact. Elected officials should address this problem, we have lived in Elm. for over 30 yrs. and the problem is getting worse. The City used to drop off cages and pick up if the animals that were caught, this was 20 yrs. ago. Now the city does nothing. If you have a pet the situation is worse because after sunset, you are in peril walking the dog because of all the skunks. They are bold and garbage nite they have a feast with all the food set out on the streets. Actually Feb. & March are the mating season for skunks, so it is quite busy right now. What is Elm. going to do about it?
Cronan March 22, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Agreed Mike. I have actually lived in more than one location within Elmhurst and dealt with families of skunks at each.
Steve Pokin March 26, 2011 at 04:04 PM
It appears this lively skunk debate has spawned two political parties in Elmhurst: The Elmhurst Stinks! Party and the Elmhurst Nut Ups, a group of rugged individualists who would never stoop to calling themselves a "community organization" because of, well, you know who. Perhaps Mr. Marcotte can write a follow up? I wonder how his daughter would do a family-friendly depiction of a Nut Up?
Mike March 27, 2011 at 10:14 AM
Lions & Tigers, & Skunks oh MY! - The skunk saga continues, the situation is worse now because the official mating season started in Feb. and for some smelly mammals who are late bloomers or don't like to mix cold with amorous feelings, the season will start in March or April. Yahoo for us host humans ! If you are not bothered by the situation in your area of Elm., you probably think what's all the stink about. The problem is if you have any reason for a noctornal stroll or walk at nite, good luck. So what have to political near to wells suggest? I have heard that if a skunk sprays an unsuspecting dog in the eyes, the canine has a great possibility of going blind? Any truth to this or is this an urban legend?
LEE April 16, 2011 at 03:07 PM
DebG April 16, 2011 at 03:33 PM
I think if your home were made uninhabitable on a regular basis you might understand why this is a problem. When you're out at night and smell a skunk it's probably a few blocks away. On the other hand when a skunk sprays directly into your home (in our case right into our dryer vent) it is so strong that you think your house is on fire and your eyes and nose burns. It's usually a few days before you can even re-enter your home and then the process of removing the smell from your clothing, linens and furniture takes months, only to have the whole thing start again and again and again..... This is our experience even using every product, every piece of preventive information available. I'm an animal lover too but unlike you I'm realistic about the fact that sometimes an animal must be relocated or even euthanized to protect humans.
RobertAWilson April 17, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Honestly Lee, if you must call people names and type in all caps, the least you could do is check your spelling and grammer. I really can't take you seriously and the only reason I'm wasting my time on this is because I abhor name calling.
Cronan April 17, 2011 at 04:39 PM
@Robert...You took the words right out of my mouth. Funny thing, I also felt I would be wasting my time with a similar response. Today, not so much! LOL and TY for the laugh.
MIKE March 05, 2012 at 11:26 PM
A year later, is the skunk situation better or worse. I would say worse .............


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