Vernon Hills might bring back skunk removal program

Vernon Hills may revive a skunk removal program that reimburses homeowners part of the cost of removing the striped critters.

The village, in cooperation with the Vernon Hills Park District, established the program last fall after residents in the Deerpath neighborhood asked for help because they were being inundated by skunks.

Officials agreed and offered to reimburse up to $75 per trapped skunk. Sixty-six skunks were removed in the 2017 program, with the village reimbursing a total of $4,425.

Village Manager John Kalmar will ask the village board to reactivate the program during its meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, at village hall, 290 Evergreen Drive.

“We didn't expect it to come back this soon,” Kalmar said. “We've received a number of calls in the past several weeks, so we're asking the board to reactivate the program to try and get ahead of the skunk population.”

The complaints again are coming from the Deerpath area, as skunk mating season apparently has begun and they are looking to establish dens. The 2018 program would be retroactive to March 1. It requires residents to contract with a licensed trapper and pay the full fee before receiving the reimbursement.

The village will pay reimbursements until June 1, when the park district begins a new budget year.

Skunks have become a perennial problem in Vernon Hills. Beginning in 2013, the village hired a registered trapper to thin the skunk population. But last year, authorities said the mild winter and wet spring provided skunks with a smorgasbord of available food and they began bypassing traps.

Striped skunks breed in February and March, so it's possible residents are seeing them more often due to an increase in activity during breeding season, said Andrew Rutter, a wildlife biologist with the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Striped skunks will give birth to four to eight young from May to June, he added.

“Temperature plays a big role in the winter activity patterns of striped skunks,” he said. Skunks remain inactive in their dens for weeks or months if temperatures dip below 15 degrees, but are more active if winter temperatures are warmer, he added.

“The relatively warm winter we've had has likely also resulted in more sightings by residents,” Rutter said.

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