Town hires pest control agency to capture the families of skunks residents say are increasingly showing up in yards between East Market and South Bedford Streets.

East Georgetown is being invaded by hostile forces and neighbors there say the problem really stinks. Literally.

Residents say families of skunks are increasingly showing up in yards between East Market and South Bedford streets, particularly along South King Street and South Railroad Avenue.

“I was born and raised in Georgetown 79 years ago and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said King Street resident Solomon Henry. “We’ve been catching them since last fall and they just keep coming.”

Henry’s son-in-law Douglas Holden, who lives on South Railroad Avenue, said he’s captured more than a dozen adult and adolescent skunks in recent months and keeps seeing more burrowing in his yard or even walking down the street in broad daylight.

“Everyone in the neighborhood is complaining about the smell,” he said. “You can’t sit in your yard or open your window because the smell is atrocious. And our real worry is that one of the little kids around here is going to end up getting sprayed.”

In an effort to contain the problem, Georgetown’s town council agreed last week to have Advanced Pest Management set up 20 traps in the area over a five-day period. The $1,624 contract includes the capture and removal of the animals, with an option to extend the deal if the problem persists.

“I’m not really sure how bad the problem is, but we owe the residents over there the benefit of the doubt to do something about it,” Mayor Mike Wyatt said. “I don’t know who’s to blame for it. Probably Mother Nature, and she’s not going to pay for it.”

Henry said he has a few guesses about where the skunks might be coming from.

“Some people think they’re finding food in the dumpsters at Waste Management [on South Railroad Avenue], although they say they try to keep it pretty clean over there,” he said. “It also could be because they’re expanding the county airport and that work has chased the skunks out of their habitat. No one seems to know for sure, but what we do know is that something needs to be done.”

Rob Hossler, program manager of game species for DNREC’s division of fish and wildlife, said he is not aware of any widespread skunk outbreaks in Sussex County.

“It’s sort of an odd time for someone to have a skunk problem because usually we get calls in late winter and early spring during their mating season,” he said.

Hossler hypothesized that the skunk issue could be stemming from recent changes in the weather.

“After several months of little to no rain, we’ve had a fair amount here in the last month,” he said. “That rain tends to force grubs and worms up out of the ground, which creates a big meal for skunks.”

This time of year, Hossler said, young skunks are starting to break away from their parents and could be foraging for meals in small packs.

Because skunks have poor eyesight, it’s not uncommon for them to wander into yards in close proximity to people, he said.

“Sometimes people think a skunk is actually coming after them, but it’s just that they don’t see you,” he said. “If you see a skunk in your yard, you might try making a lot of noise, because while they have terrible eyesight, they do have good hearing.”

Hossler, however, warned residents to maintain a safe distance.

“They can carry rabies, and then, of course, there’s that famous defense mechanism,” he said. “It’s also important to make sure you keep your dog in check, because a dog chasing a skunk tends to trigger their spray and it usually takes dogs a few times before they learn.”