November 3, 2011
The skunks have always been around, just part of the passing circus here at Sun and Wind Farm. Last summer, we would catch the occasional glimpse of a lone skunk in the back pasture, as we walked our range and he walked his. Earlier this spring, a female set up house with her four kits out by the front pond. As the weather turned hotter and drier, the whole troop could occasionally be observed at first light, digging holes in search of worms or other taste treats. In the dead of summer, we would be awakened by nighttime scratching at bags left on the back deck. When we turned on the light, we would be startled to see one uninhibited skunk completely inside the tipped-over bag, accompanied by Babar the Wonder Cat [tm] sitting calmly two feet away. A month ago, as we sat outside in the dark watching a powerful thunderstorm barreling south toward us from Dallas, one skunk — throwing all caution to the wind due to the impending storm — raced for cover in front of us, barely 10 feet away. Of much greater concern, freshly dug holes had started to materialize at strategic locations adjacent to the house. Cute they may be, but skunks are well-known carriers of rabies and we needed to take action before someone (meow) was bitten.
Pest removal companies draw a great big line in the sand between the kinds of nuisances that make their way into your house (these would be your termites, ants, mice, etc.) and larger outside critters (including your skunks, ferrets, weasels and beavers). The attentive young lady who took our call listened carefully and confidently pronounced, “Oh, you don’t want us, you want the critter guy.” A quick call and a few hours later we heard the sound of dueling banjos playing Deliverance out in our driveway. Bud (not his real name) and his faithful sidekick dog Pepsi (not its real name) had arrived.
Bud is as earthy a man as you’ll meet. He moves to the beat of an internal clock that is clearly out of sync with the one the rest of us hear. He patrols a huge region, removing unwanted critters. On his days off from crittering, he hunts feral hogs with his bow. Animals are always around him. We walked over to his pickup to gather some Have-a-Heart Traps and he asked nonchalantly, “Wanna see a beaver?” Sure enough, there was a huge beaver lying in the back, umm, sleeping. Bud and Pepsi are a team. As Bud carefully questioned us about our “problem,” Pepsi sniffed the foundation of the house in case his own specialty — the discovery of snakes — would be required that day.
The holes that had been dug were tiny, perhap four or five inches in diameter. It was hard to imagine a skunk (let alone a family of skunks) squeezing in there. But that’s only because skunks look much larger than they actually are. Their distinctive fluffy black and white-striped fur and long tail disguise the fact that most skunks weigh less than two pounds, stretched over a long body.
Skunks spend their days in burrows or in man-made items like PVC pipe, depending on what’s available. They usually emerge at night to scrounge around for food, eating almost anything they can put their sharp little hole-digging claws on. Given the oppressively hot and dry weather we had here this summer, it’s not a surprise at all that the skunks were burrowing in near the house, where the prospects for water and food were better.
After 20 minutes of diagnosis, Bud and Pepsi took action, setting four traps around the perimeter of the house. The enticement? A freshly opened can of sardines. I happen to like sardines, so this seemed like a waste of a good meal to me. But then, I don’t know the critter guy’s business, do I. By next morning, for sure, the skunks would be captured, chauffeured away and released in some verdant wonderland where they could live out the days and nights with those of their own kind.
Next morning, no skunks. Not a problem, said Bud. We’ll get ’em.
Following morning, two skunks!
They really looked all cute and cozy in the cages (see photo of trapped beady-eyed skunk at top of blog for evidence that I am not making this all up). Bud eventually arrived (lots of work for critter guys this time of year, apparently) and triumphantly removed the two cages from the property. A day later, a third skunk was caught. Then a fourth. And yet there is still fresh digging taking place each night.
Eventually, they’ll all be caught. Perhaps not on our timetable or even Bud’s more expansive definition of a timetable. But it’ll happen. The critter guy guarantees it.