Skunks have become so prevalent in one area of Vernon Hills that the village and park district are reimbursing residents up to $75 for each one trapped and removed on their property.
"They're everywhere," said Kristen Weissman, a resident of the Deerpath neighborhood who brought the matter before the village board last week. "There's just so many and we need help."
Residents said they see the striped critters regularly in yards, while walking in Deerpath Park and elsewhere. One said she was sitting at her kitchen table about 6 p.m. one evening and saw a skunk staring at her through the patio door.
Sightings became so common that an offshoot of the Deerpath neighborhood Facebook page was created just to chart them. More than 120 skunk icons -- each representing a sighting -- dot the portion of the map south of Route 60 between Butterfield Road and Fairway Drive, on www.deerneigh.com.
The appearance of skunks this time of year isn't new in Vernon Hills, but it has taken an unexpected turn this year.
After fielding dozens of complaints in September 2013, the village and the Vernon Hills Park District hired a registered trapper to thin the skunk population.
That became an annual practice, but this year authorities say the mild winter and wet spring made the landscape so lush and food so abundant that skunks have been bypassing the traps set on public property.
"They don't need to go in a trap," Police Chief Patrick Kreis said.
High concentrations of skunks reflect a good quality of food, shelter and travel corridors, like railroad or power line rights of way, according to Bob Bluett, of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Since fewer skunks die of diseases or parasites during mild winters, more are around. Figures for 2017 aren't yet available, but the number of skunks captured in the Chicago metro area by those with state nuisance wildlife control permits was 13,464 in 2016 -- an increase of 18 percent over 2015.
Bluett said skunks don't hibernate but rely on fat reserves to carry them through periods of extreme cold or deep snow when they can't forage. This is the time of year when they "put on the feed bag" to build those reserves, he said.
Without much trapping success on public land, officials believe putting traps where dens have been identified would be more effective. That often means under porches or other locations on private property.
To do that, residents must hire a licensed nuisance control operator. Homeowners will pay roughly $125 for an inspection and trap setup, and the village and park district will split a reimbursement of up to $75 for each skunk trapped.
Forms and other information are expected to be posted on the village website by the end of the week. While it is partnering with the park district, the village will be the point of contact for residents.