I Fought the Skunk and I Won

Intrepid outdoorsman learns to speak softly and carry a long stick.

| September/October 2007

As a life-long fisherman and hunter I’ve accumulated a bit of knowledge about wild animals and nature, or so I thought. Busy working on our old house, when my long “to do” list said it was time to fix the side porch before winter, I proceeded without regard to weather or location.

A job like that isn’t done in a day, due to my retiree age, rainy days, tired days, minor crises and interests in other things. I removed the anti-critter barrier from two open sides of the porch, forgetting that it had prevented wildlife from exploring not only the crawl space beneath it, but also the crawl space under three rooms of the house. The month of October flew by along with the first killing frost and a weeklong cold spell. Then one night, my wife, Barb, woke me to say that she had heard scratching sounds that seemed to be coming from somewhere in our first-floor bedroom. As the ever intrepid outdoorsman, I assured her that it was probably mice or, God forbid, a rat. In either case, I’d set traps and that would solve the problem. The next day I bought three rattraps, but caught nothing.

With temperatures dropping rapidly, I hastened the job of reinstalling the barrier and in a few days was able to close off the porch and relax. That evening my wife wanted to know what was causing the smell in the rear room adjacent to the porch. I sniffed around and announced, still confident in my outdoorsman skills, that in all probability a tomcat had marked his territory around the house.

Later, Barb heard a noise in the cellarway and called me in alarm. “See there next to the heating duct? See that hole? I saw an animal’s nose sticking out.”

Sure enough, the insulation surrounding the duct where it passed through an old window opening in the foundation was torn open, but no animal nose was visible. By morning, the earth immediately adjacent to the new porch barrier had been dug up and the half rotted plywood of the old barrier adjacent to my new work had a new, six-inch hole. I closed the hole with a piece of treated plywood. That, I thought, takes care of that.

That evening, Barb again heard a noise in the cellarway and called me. I listened at the cellar door, heard nothing, quietly opened the door and, reaching in, switched on the light. Eight feet away, perched on the waste pipe three feet from the insulation, now torn open, was what appeared to be the largest skunk in the world. He faced away from me, in pre-spray position and didn’t move. I turned off the light and slowly closed and latched the door.

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