When I went out to feed the backyard chickens that morning, I was stunned to see a skunk sitting in the trap I had laid by the back of the barn near the pen gate. I hadn’t officially set it there to trap anything. The back barn door had been locked, so I had just put the trap down instead of putting it all the way away. The fox had managed to steal the bait (dead chicken, since we knew it liked those… ) last fall without springing it, so it had still been set and I hadn’t
bothered known how to release it. The dog, Kiwi, wouldn’t fit in it and I would see the trap every day, on the chance that a cat got curious.
Well, that explained the suspicious digging I had noticed by the gate over the weekend. Fortunately, the wire and the bricks had impeded entry, but the skunk had not given up. It was probably exploring for a new digging angle and accidentally walked into the trap. It also explained the new dog perfume. Did you know that a dog who has skunk spray oils on it can smell like burning rubber? She must not have gotten a personal application, though, because it was partly her lack of distress that had us mystified about the aroma when we first noticed it two hours earlier. She had been let in the house, all the way to my bedroom. Oops.
Very slowly, I moved a couple of feet closer to the skunk, watching it intently. It was, of course, also watching me. It turned to fully face me with its wicked, beady little eyes, then hunched its back. I backed up again and wondered how long it would take a skunk to die without food and water. The trouble with that idea was that it was right next to the chicken pen. I needed to go in and feed them. I also didn’t want them or the dog sprayed again.
So, being the rational, logical person that I am, I ran into the house yelling, “You are NOT going to believe it! You are NEVER going to believe it!” I didn’t keep the girls in suspense long. I was soon blurting out, “I trapped a skunk!” Then, helplessly, “What do you do with a trapped skunk!?” My husband was on the other side of the globe. My sons were working or in college classes. Maybe my dad would have an idea.
My dad told me to call animal control while he looked things up on the internet. Canyon County Animal Control does not deal with skunks. They suggested a business called Nuisance Nabbers. When I called, the business owner said the charge was $95 to find the animal and $60 to trap it. For me, since I already had it contained, it would be $95. (I’m guessing that amount covers their fuel costs.) They would either release the animal or euthanize it. He was very nice, but they couldn’t be here until 4 or 5 PM. I needed to feed the chickens before then.
Soon my dad called me back and said he had some good plans forming. We would need a tarp and a lawnmower. He was on his way over. When he arrived, he wanted to show me a youtube video of how someone walked up to cover the skunk in the trap. This person proceeded to take the skunk out into the wild and shoot it. We would use the lawnmower exhaust, piped in under the tarp to euthanize it. All we needed to find was something to be the “pipe.”
I thought of the shop vac hose, which my dad agreed would probably work. We propped it up on a brick so that it would funnel the exhaust from the front of the lawnmower. My dad let the tarp hang full length in front of him and slowly approached the trapped skunk. This was challenging with the gusty wind. The skunk watched but didn’t act aggressively. Finally, the tarp was laid over the whole trap and my dad could grasp the trap handle through the tarp. He carried it a few feet, to where we could drive up the lawn mower. We were concerned that if we moved the skunk too much, it might get agitated.
A few bricks were strategically placed to hold down the tarp and help it contain the fumes more effectively. We turned on the lawn mower and the shop vac hose melted within a few minutes. Time to look for a new pipe.
I knew that my husband had various pipes around in his workshop, but for this, the pipe needed to be fairly wide, and it needed to be a little flexible. Lo and behold, he had a three-foot section of old dryer vent tubing laying in the shop. He knew it would be needed one day. He would be particularly gratified that I was the one who ended up needing it.
The dryer vent tubing was a good fit over the hole that the exhaust came out of, but it wasn’t a sealed system. We waited about 40 minutes, then gingerly pulled back the tarp to check on the skunk. It was laying down, but I thought I saw rhythmic breathing. My dad thought it might just be the wind blowing its fur. Either way, we were ready for a lunch break.
After lunch, we went to see if the skunk was “still dead.” No, but it was very relaxed. The euthanizing process seemed like it was taking a very long time with the lawnmower. Since the skunk seemed to no longer be a level red alert, we ventured to carry it a couple of hundred feet to the truck. The dryer vent tubing was a PERFECT fit over the truck exhaust pipe. Ten minutes later, the skunk was peacefully euthanized.
Since this was the second time it had died, my dad suggested that it would be just as well to leave it in the trap, covered with the tarp overnight. We moved it to an area that the dog could not access and parted ways until the next morning. When we observed it again, it had not moved a muscle. We double bagged it for the trash.
Idaho Fish and Game say that skunks fall into the category of nuisance unprotected predators. It seems somewhat humorous to me that the code specifies that you have to have a permit to release them live on government property. Permission is also required to release them on private property. I guess no one really wants skunks? Law allows us (thankfully!) to deal with such animals to protect private property and assure personal safety.
The trap is back behind the barn, ready and waiting. I am going to put something like tuna fish in it. I think I might be able to take care of a skunk myself next time. I should probably claim that dryer vent tubing for my own and put it together with a tarp as a skunk euthanizing kit. And, by the way, one of my daughters cut and spliced the shop vac hose and it works fine. She might take after her dad.