I love living outside the city limits, but sometimes sharing our five acres with nature can have its challenges. I currently maintain seven bird feeders and a bird bath. Not only do we have lots of birds, but the availability of food and water brings in some unintended visitors as well.
I was attending a meeting at the nature center when my cell phone vibrated. Seeing it was Pete, I quickly excused myself and answered his call.
“Hi sweetie, what’s up?”
“I have a problem. How do I get a skunk out of the garage?”
I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing, arousing the curiosity of everyone else at the meeting. Still, what better group to have an answer? I quickly explained that my husband was home working on some chores, and a skunk had wandered past the open garage door. It was now lurking somewhere among the paint cans, tools, and garden implements.
We decided that since the skunk had come out of the night into the lighted garage, perhaps reversing the lighting would solve the problem. Pete was instructed to turn off all the lights inside, and turn on the security lighting outside. Sure enough, either because we guessed right, or because there weren’t any juicy worms and bugs in the garage, the skunk finally meandered out the door.
That was our first encounter.
Our two-story house is earth-bermed on three sides, with below-grade windows downstairs. The window wells really need to have covers, but since they are walled with cement none of the standard sizes fit, and we haven’t gotten around to having anything custom made.
A couple of weeks after the garage incident, we were downstairs when we heard a soft scratching coming from one of the bedrooms. A quick investigation turned up an animal stuck in one of the window wells. And a closer look confirmed my fears. It was a skunk.
There was no way this poor climber was going to get out on its own. Something would have to be done. My resourceful husband quickly cobbled together a skunk ladder, made out of a 2 x 6, some carpet scraps, and leftover mesh gutter screening. Then I (as the “naturalist”) was nominated to save the day.
Hauling the skunk ladder around to the back of the house, I pondered how I could get it into the window well without scaring the skunk. Finally, I laid down and inched my way up to the edge of the hole, in best soldier fashion. Once close enough, I tipped the board over the rim and scurried for safety.
Back at the window, we had an excellent view of the skunk, who was, shall we say, less intelligent than an earthworm. You’d think it would have been anxious to be up and away, but it took over thirty minutes to figure out that the ladder provided an escape. Still, finally it lumbered up the steep slope, claws keeping their grip on the carpet and mesh, and disappeared into the night.
That was our second encounter.
Three weeks passed without mishap. We dutifully checked the windows daily, and made plans to construct safety covers. I left the board in place, just in case, but there were three windows and only one ladder. And then, sure enough, one night it happened again. A skunk was stuck in the window well.
This time, the animal seemed smaller. We guessed it must be a baby. With a sigh, I trudged out to collect the board from the first window and move it to the one with the skunk.
It was dark, and I wasn’t paying that much attention as I grabbed the ladder, then headed toward the next window. It wasn’t until I was almost to the edge that I realized that the baby in the well wasn’t the only skunk around. Mama was standing guard—a mere three feet in front of me!
Yikes! I dropped the ladder and backed away as quickly as I could, finally turning and running. As I slammed the front door and stood their panting, I tried to come up with my options. One… do nothing, and the skunk would die. This would be bad for the skunk, and bad for us (a dead skunk wouldn’t be able to keep its defensive scent contained, and our house would reek). Two… take my chances with mama. Well, that was really the only choice.
I riffled through the hall closet, donning raincoat, knee-high rubber boots, and any other protective gear I could find. Then, this time with a flashlight, I slowly made my way back around the house. In order to warn the protective parent that I was coming, I started with a sing-song voice, “Nice skunky, nice skunky, I’m coming to save your baby…” I’m sure the neighbors thought I was crazy.
Either mama had been as traumatized as I had been, or my singing scared her away (my singing could scare anyone away), but she was nowhere in sight. I quickly moved the ladder and skedaddled. Baby climbed up, and the story has a happy ending.
At this point, we have netting on top of the window wells, and there have been no more accidents. I’d actually like the skunks to come back. My old camera wasn’t able to get a decent photo in the dark, and I sure didn’t want to use flash! Now that I have a newer camera with a nice telephoto lens and high ISO capability, I could get a good shot. The skunks must have decided that our property wasn’t a safe enough place to raise a family, however, because we haven’t seen them at all this year. Too bad. I think.