Encounters with Skunks: Stories, Facts, and Tips

The author tells a story about an encounter with a skunk gone wrong, and outlines the best ways of dealing with this smelly animal.

| January/February 1990

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    It's cuddly as a kitten, but not to be petted. In addition to its famous odor, a skunk can carry rabies.
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    A striped skunk relaxes in a Montana dandelion field. Cute as the image is, the skunk probably came to snack rather than to smell.
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    Skunk habitat distribution in North America

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A neighbor on the mountain here had quite an adventure this past winter.

Dick lives in a cabin that juts out sharply from a steep slope and is supported on its downhill side by tall foundation stilts. With the ample subfloor area sided in and insulated with battings of fiberglass, the resulting crawl space is dark, dry, and warm. It is these attractions that have made the place a mecca for wild things that tunnel their way in and pull the insulation from the walls for nests. The invaders include mice, pack rats, and others.

It was one of the others that cost Dick several nights' sleep and led him to become a reluctant local legend.

Resigned to battling rodents as part of the country lifestyle, Dick kept his crawl space mined with an array of mouse- and rattraps, all well baited and checked regularly. Late one December night while Dick, his wife, and their dog slept, a skunk got under the cabin and did its worst.

Groggy, unwilling to leave his warm bed and go out into the cold night on a wild skunk chase, Dick promised he'd see to it come morning, then buried his face in the blankets and suffered through the remainder of the night while his wife mumbled unpleasantries and their dog sneezed and whined.

Up at daylight, Dick went down and propped open the crawl-space door. No skunk in sight. He left the door open and went to work. That evening, a flashlight in one hand, the other holding a kerchief over his face, he ventured in. The evidence was plain enough. The skunk had tunneled in under the back wall directly below the bedroom, then run amok, shredding insulation from the walls, fuming over garden tools and paint cans, and, in the process, setting off a mousetrap—which, Dick guessed; was what had prompted the big stink.

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