The Skunk Whisperer
(A Smelly Situation)
It is February and love is in the air. Valentine’s Day, a day I used to cringe at in my single years, but now one I truly enjoy sharing with my wife and two kids. A couple of months ago, a critter, actually a few, had the same affection for my home. An affinity for a warm place to snuggle and love with their own. May I introduce to you our surfeit of skunks.
…Well, this is just one of my new friends. I have dozens of videos and pictures to corroborate.
It all started one fall morning, when upon arriving home after a small weekend getaway, I opened the front door to smell the wonderous aroma of skunk. I mean bad. So, after saying a few choice words, opening all the windows, running the cental air system, and lighting every candle in the house, I inspected the home, inside and out. Low and behold, a small screen leading to the crawl space under my 1957 Rancher had been chewed through and opened like a cheap soda can by my new companion, Pepé Le Pew.
You see, a few weeks earlier, my wife heard noises from under the house, which I assumed were mice in the crawl space. I set a mouse trap and sealed an entrance point I believed they were coming in from. A few more nights of loud scratching, then nothing. I checked the traps, nothing. Naive me thought they must have self-evicted. Great!
Until that wonderful fall morning.
No, it wasn’t a mouse. No, it didn’t leave. Yes, it was hungry for my peanut butter souffle nestled in the trap. And yes, it let out a terrible stench upon eating said souffle. Skunk.
I set out on trying to rid this varmint. I scoured the internet. Mothballs and peppermint did not dissuade my new tenant. I searched further.
Time for the big guns. I’d have to catch it. My primordial man came out. Yes, I am now a hunter (even though I’ve never hunted a land animal in my life). I didn’t want to kill it, I just wanted to get rid of it. The live trap was my answer.
This should be easy. I’ll catch it, animal control will come and pick it up, and all would be right with the world. Not so fast. After a call to the city, animal control does not take away “live” wildlife. DRATS! If I were to kill it, then yes, they would come, but me being Mr. Softy, I could not do that. So, I watched videos on how to humanely relocate Pepé to a different area once caught. Got it. Now I’m ready to catch.
I went to my local mom and pop hardware store (I always try to support small businesses) and got my trap. My son and I placed this wild contraption on our living room floor. 2 doors and 2 “triggers” that will shut the doors as soon as Pepé steps on it. Fantastic. Now we’re in business.
With a little trepidation, I walk out into the night, trap in hand, with a hunter’s mindset. I attempt to set the trap in the dark. The trap doors closing on my arms with the slightest movement, ouch. Finally, it is in position. Now the bait. I go back inside and invade the pantry. Peanut butter (I know they like that) and Wheat Thins (don’t want them to eat anything too unhealthy). I make the smorgasbord and set a trail of crackers from the hole invading my house leading to the inside of the trap. I’m hungry. I’m tempted to eat them also, but no. I’m a hunter. I must think of my family…
Ok, so a little dramatic…
Trap is set. I go to bed. Next morning, nothing. Some of the crackers are gone from outside the trap, but none from inside. I set it up again the next evening. Again, nada. I need to up the ante. On the third night, I add a little something extra to my peanut butter spread – dog food. Good ol’ Kibbles & Bits.
That did it! Success! My 1st skunk! I’m elated. I show the kids. I show my wife. They are somewhat thrilled. But my elation leaves and I’m left alone with it. Now the nervousness. All my training (an hour worth of you tube videos) has come to this point. I must pick up the cage, put it in my truck, and drive it to a desolate spot, away from homes, to release my jilted lover. I slowly approach as not to disturb too much, I peer into its eyes, and hush sweet nothings like, “Please don’t spray me” and “I’m not going to hurt you, be nice”. I gently lay a blanket on the cage to cover it. This protects me from Pepe’s smelly spritz and calms him into sweet serenity. I am safe. No spray, no stink. I pick up the cage and put it into the back of my truck.
Now, what I could say, might be illegal. Moving wildlife may or may not be legal. Check with your local jurisdiction. As to not to incriminate myself, suffice it to say, the skunk is gone. It is alive. It is probably happy. And it’s not living under our home anymore. Enough said.
Happily, I learned in my research that skunks are very solitary creatures. Great, that should be the only one. EXCEPT, when cooler weather arrives, the females like to huddle together to stay warm. Often, with the young they bore in the spring. I learned that a single den could contain a few to upwards of 24 SKUNKS!!!! Well, that can’t be me. It doesn’t get that cold here. Plus, come on, I don’t live in the middle of the woods. This is the city. One or two skunks max, right? WRONG
I set another trap that same night, just to make sure no more were under our home before I plugged the hole. I also set up a video camera to check it out. Nature is amazing, isn’t it? Over the next month, my camera recorded over a dozen skunks coming out of that hole. I lost count, but somewhere between 14 and 17 of them.
How was your November and December? Mine: Sleepless nights. Early mornings. Borrowing more traps from my next-door neighbor (unbeknownst to me, they had some familiarity with the issue – sometimes they caught one…ha-ha, amateurs). But I digress. Switching from Wheat Thins, to Ritz, to Cinnamon Toast Crunch for bait. Moving the traps to different parts of the yard (because they get smart after seeing their friends get taken away). Occasionally getting sprayed. Wondering when it’s ever going to end. This was Christmas 2022 for my family and me.
Fortunately, it eventually did end. A few days of nothing in the trap, nothing on my video, and no crackers eaten turned into a few weeks. By New Year, it was time to plug the hole. Finally.
Today, I can look back and laugh a little. I have a Holiday memory to share with family and friends. Also, this not-so-long ago event has been rekindled as Valentine’s Day draws near. Yes, Pepé Le Pew and his homies (or more probable – Pepa Le Pew and her sisters) comes front and center in my mind. This hopeless romantic from Warner Bros and Chuck Jones. It started with a whiff, it did not end in a kiss, but with an “au revoir”.
Please Pepa, I’m begging you, don’t spray the flame of your one-sided love at my home ever again.