The tales of skunks and the relief when they leave

The Rusty Iron business is a little slow this week, so I’ll play Scott Shalaway and tell you a nature tale that I call (with apologies to Steven Spielberg), A Close Encounter of the Striped Kind.

Nuisance

For a couple of weeks, something has been digging up Nancy’s flower bulbs at the front of the house. We’ve seen two or three young raccoons in the back yard and behind the barns and figured they were the culprits, so last Wednesday evening I baited a large “Hav-A-Hart” trap with bread and peanut butter and placed it along the front of the house where we’d found droppings.

Thursday morning there was a miscreant in the trap — the neighbor’s highly disgruntled gray and white cat; at least I haven’t seen him around since. So, try again that night. No luck; something got the bait and tripped the trap, but it was empty.

The skunk

Third time’s the charm, so the trap was reset Friday night. I got a surprise on Saturday morning when, instead of the expected coon, there was a skunk in the trap!

Now what? The trap is not easy to open and besides, it was right beside the house and I sure didn’t want Little Stinky to spray there. My late brother-in-law did a lot of trapping and he’d always shoot the skunk in the trap when he caught one, which usually caused it to spray.

My neighbor came by while I was puzzling over the thing and recommended I shoot it; as he said, “It’s better he spray there than on you.”

Other option

I hate to kill animals — oh, I have, and will — but it’s not enjoyable. The little guy seemed pretty calm under the circumstances and I knew (or thought I knew) that skunks don’t spray except as a last resort. So, I put on my oldest clothes and shoes, removed my watch, hearing aids and eyeglasses, and prepared to move the trap.

My pickup truck was parked a few feet from the trap and I ve-e-ery gingerly picked up the trap, carried it to the truck and placed it in the back. Taking along a large black trash bag, I drove to a secluded little country cemetery with no nearby houses. After covering the trap with the trash bag, I again lifted it from the truck and sat it gently on the ground.

Didn’t want to leave

It took some fiddling, but I finally got the spring-loaded trap door propped open with a stick. Then Stinky wouldn’t come out! He was facing away from the open door and didn’t realize he was free. After removing the trash bag so he could see, he turned, scooted out of the trap and headed for the woods as fast as he could go. He didn’t even thank me for freeing him.

Relocating the skunk was a success, I didn’t get even a whiff of odor during the whole process, however I wouldn’t recommend that you try this at home. It might not work the next time, especially if one encounters a more excitable skunk, but I was pretty pleased with myself for pulling it off.

One more skunk story and I’ll let you go. This wasn’t my first experience with the striped critters.

Not your usual pet

When my daughter Lisa was 6 or 7, her grandfather somehow got hold of a baby skunk and gave it to her. Lisa and her mother loved animals, and her mother had had a pet skunk when she was little, so we got a leash and a little harness and Lisa would take Max (short for Maximilian Smell) for walks around the neighborhood.

He lived in the house, ate cat food, and had a litter box just like Frankie the cat, who seemed to pretty much leave Max alone.

Trouble

Max wasn’t descented, so there was always the potential for an accident. But when upset, he’d just stamp his front feet and hiss and sometimes turn his backend toward the source of his agitation, but he never let loose.

One day, Max was tied on the patio and Lisa and her friend Laura from next door were jumping rope, when Laura accidentally stepped on the little guy.

He reacted as only skunks can do and Laura went home crying and stinking. Laura’s mother was a little upset, but that’s the only time in the six or so months we had Max that he sprayed.

Relief

The following winter, Lisa took Max out for a walk one snowy day and he somehow slipped his harness and got away from her. Lisa was upset for a while, but soon got over it and I was secretly relieved because Max would soon have been full grown and, not being descented, would have caused big problems.

(Questions or comments to Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460-0038.)

About the Author

Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules. More Stories by Sam Moore

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