Skunks were a common sight on the farm where I grew up. Our yard with its many granaries, sheds, chicken coops and barns was a haven for these creatures and their offspring, and everyone encountered one at some point or another.
My own close encounter with a skunk occurred many years later as I was making preparations for my son’s seventh birthday party. As we were hiding the clues for a scavenger hunt that would take six second-graders to every corner of our yard, I spied a flash of black and white. We had a skunk!
This skunk was brazen, this skunk was bold, this skunk was confident. There was a definite spring in his gait and he appeared not to be at all frightened of humans. He loped full speed toward the patio and only veered off course at the last minute when he spotted the bird bath. He skittered to a sudden stop and took his time sauntering off. The next night he came within a few feet of us as we sat on lawn chairs in the yard and didn’t hurry even when we made loud noises and tried to shoo him away. What to do? As I watched him disappear under the garden shed, I realized I had three days to get rid of him before one of my son’s party guests, intent on finding treasure, met him face to face.
I called the county’s animal control officer. He would bring me a trap which I could bait and leave set. I was to check it often and call them ASAP so that the animal would not be left to suffer in the small, stuffy trap in the heat of the day. I placed a wiener in the rectangle box and set it near the shed. A few hours later, I looked out to see a delicate black-clawed foot extended through a small hole in the trap. The skunk was caught! Now the deed had been done, I did not feel very satisfied. The slender little leg looked harmless as it waved about pitifully and I was crestfallen. I called the control officer who arrived a short time later.
“Where will you release him?” I asked.
“Ma’am, no one wants your skunk. He will be humanely dispatched.” My heart sank. I had naively believed he would be “relocated.”
Some hours later, my son arrived home from school and asked, “Did they take the skunk out into the forest, Mommy?”
“Yes, babe,” I replied weakly.
I do all I can to share space with the wild things around our home and since that sad experience, I have learned a few more things about skunks. They are attracted to the spaces under sheds, decks, and other structures where they like to establish dens. Placing crushed mothballs in the space or shining bright light into it will make the spot unappealing and encourage them to move on. I have a new strategy, and should a skunk happen to wander by again, I’ll be ready!
Lois Gordon writes from Sherwood Park, Alberta