The most common skunk in North America is the striped skunk, which is found across southern Canada down through the continental United States and into northern Mexico. Skunks have enlarged anal scent glands that produce an oily defensive fluid containing sulfur-based compounds that can be sprayed up to 10 feet away. If not surprised, skunks may warn before spraying by raising their tail and stomping their front feet.
Striped skunks are adapted to human environments. They are mostly active at night and may damage grass in yards while searching for insects to eat. They may also den under structures or fall into basement window wells. Aside from spraying people or pets if surprised or confronted, skunks may vector rabies, especially in California and the center of the United States up into Canada.
A few options are available to prevent skunks from denning on a property. A repellent can be applied to a den to deter skunks from using it. Skunks can be physically excluded from a den with a one-way door that allows them to leave but not return. Skunks can also be removed from a property if caught in a live cage trap. Set a trap overnight with a protein-based bait in an area with skunk activity. Approach a trapped skunk quietly with a blanket or towel to cover the trap before attempting to move the trap.
Photo by Brian Gratwicke, iNaturalist.org