A group of Dardenne Prairie residents are raising a stink about close encounters of a skunk kind happening in their subdivision.
Cheryl Davis, a resident of the Campbell Village subdivision, told the city’s Board of Aldermen at a work session on July 20, that until recently there were few problems with skunks. “We started smelling skunks about a year, year and a half ago,” Davis said.
This year, she noticed holes dug in mulch around her trees and the bottoms of Japanese beetle traps eaten away. Thinking it was a raccoon, she borrowed a trap from a neighbor and caught a skunk. It cost her $150 to pay an exterminator to take it away.
“Over a period of the last two or three weeks, several of the residents, which you will hear from, have also had up-close-and-personnel problems with these skunks,” Davis said. She said she’s been unable to get help from the Missouri Department of Conservation, St. Charles County animal control and highway department officials.
Not many residents can afford to spend $150 for each skunk they trap, Davis said, so they decided to come before the board to ask for help.
Other residents report seeing as many as four to seven skunks wandering near subdivision porches and yards or outside when they walk their dogs in the evening. Some dogs have been sprayed by skunks and residents fear the animals could be source of rabies. The skunks also may have dens for their young under decks and in yards.
Alderman John Gottway [Ward 3] said the skunks may be eating grubs, June bugs, beetles and pet food that is left outside. “They are coming to that area because there is plentiful food,” he said. He added that the animals also may be migrating from the nearby August. A. Busch Wildlife area.
Other residents said it isn’t likely that food sources can be completely eliminated.
“There’s no way to get rid of their food source,” said Gary Vogt. “You’ve got to eliminate the population.” He suggested the idea of poison or residents taking other measures. “We’re looking for some guidance because they are overrunning the subdivision.”
Dardenne Prairie is no longer a natural area, Vogt said. “You’re in a city and there is nothing but concrete and sewers and they [skunks] are coming out of the sewers.”
Alderman Blake Nay [Ward 2] said other homeowners associations have taken care of animal problems on their own and paid for finding solutions. “That’s our guide,” he said.
The city has already had to deal with animal pests. The city paid a trapper $500 for three months to trap out beavers building dams along creeks in the city, which were backing up water.
“I don’t know if there is such a thing as a professional skunk trapper,” said Mayor David Zucker.
Zucker said poison may not be a good option because it could hurt other animals and the city prohibits the discharge of firearms.
Davis noted that the subdivision homeowners association has already spent $3,000 to fill in holes and spaces under decks with concrete.
On July 22, Zucker noted that residents can pay a $40 deposit and pick up trap at the county’s “secret underground bunker wherever that is.”
If a skunk is caught in the trap, the county sends out an employee to take the animal and dispose of it. The resident is charged $80 and can get their $40 deposit back once the trap is returned. City officials were told that the county has only a few traps available, Zucker said.
He added that the city would consider offsetting some of the cost to residents but the board has to make a final decision at a future meeting.
Alderman Dan Koch [Ward 3] said at the work session it may be worth the cost to the city to help pay some of the bill to eliminate the skunks.
Meanwhile, Dan Zarlenga, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said on July 22 that preventative measures such as not leaving pet food available, keeping garbage cans covered, filling holes, cutting down on bird seed, and eliminating branches and yard waste may dissuade animals. “There is usually something that draws them,” he said.
The department has suggestions for dealing with nuisance wildlife on its website at www.mdc.mo.gov. The state also has a specialist who can help in dealing with animals.
Tom Meister, the state’s wildlife damage biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the state can loan traps to residents and instruct them but it doesn’t dispose of trapped animals. Meister’s area covers 25 counties and he deals daily with complaints about muskrats, beavers, coyotes, raccoons and even possible bear and mountain lion sitings.
While individual problem animals may caught, eliminating a whole population is difficult. Meiser said often if an problem animal is caught, that capture creates a niche and other animals fill.
The encroachment of urbanization on natural areas is not new.
“Urban and suburban areas and moving into areas that animals called home,” Zarlenga said. Many people like this closeness to wildlife, “but there are consequences,” he added.