I recently agreed to see if a skunk needed evicted from beneath a friend’s empty home that is for sale. She said she was in the house the other day and it smelled terribly “skunky” inside, making her think one might be living under the porch. My glasses have transition lenses that turn really dark in the sunlight, so as I blindly peered into the darkness beneath the porch I wondered aloud how bad the situation might turn if I suddenly came face-to-face (and hopefully not face-to-butt) with the resident skunk.
I’ve had some interesting adventures involving skunks in traps, the worst of which led to a drive home in my underwear so I didn’t totally contaminate the inside of my truck. Looking back, I can call them interesting now, but at the time my descriptions were slightly different. Skunks are fairly laid back critters and if caught in an enclosed or covered cage trap can usually be carted away in the trap and unceremoniously dumped somewhere without incident.
Some years ago as a new trapper, I caught one in a large cage trap set for bobcats, possibly a first for both me and the skunk. As I slowly approached the cage, the silly thing ran to the back and began an acrobatics display fit for a circus. First up one side, across the back by its front claws then down the other side it went, twirling like a little black and white ballerina. With great effort and a long stick I got the cage door propped open, then turned and ran cause’ I knew Pepe’ would be charging the open door for his freedom. At a safe distance I turned to watch, and there it still hung like Spiderman on the inside of the cage.
My next plan involved rushing the cage, arms flailing and shouting at the top of my lungs, hoping to scare the critter out the open front door. It didn’t take me long to see how this would turn disastrous and the maneuver was called off in mid-charge. I had other traps to check, so I opted to leave for awhile, then just stop on my way back through and reset the trap after Pepe’ had vamoosed. A half hour later I found it still in the trap, curled up in a fuzzy little black and white ball in the back corner of the cage. I finally just left and the thing vanished sometime overnight.
My latest encounter was just last season. A short distance from town I had a large skunk caught in a foothold coyote trap. Despite most people’s thinking, foothold traps usually cause a critter no more than a sore foot for awhile, but this skunk appeared to be stone cold dead. I stood and marveled at its beautiful silky fur as it rippled in the wind, and tried to figure what had caused its demise. It had the trap completely covered so I needed to push it aside to remove it. Both the skunk and the trap were going to stink already, and not anxious to drive home again in my stocking feet or underwear, I found a nice sturdy stick to roll it out of the way. I don’t know who was most surprised, the sleeping skunk when I poked it with the stick or me when it suddenly jumped to its feet! This encounter did not end in disaster (for me) but it gave new meaning to the old cliché’ “Things are not always as they seem.”
I’ve never understood how the term “skunked” came to mean basically getting nothing, as in getting “skunked” on a fishing trip. They are amazing little creatures that are very good at doing what God created them to do. Their fur is soft and silky, their essence is prized by trappers and the perfume industry and they’re actually fun to watch as they waddle along. But if you ever get “skunked” by messing with one, I guarantee you’ll get way more than nothing!
Steve Gilliland, Inman, can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.