There comes a time when you realize you have to take care of your own skunks. My dad had helped me with the first two stinky prisoners. Both our dog and the neighbor’s dog have recently been sprayed full in the face. The neighbor’s dog has even been chased by the skunk. And our dog keeps going out near the back fence and nosing in an old ditch pipe, not too far from the back chickens, and acquiring a lesser application of skunk odor. I have been beginning to feel it is unsafe in my own backyard, especially at dusk when I go to close in the chickens.
The first two times, we had caught the skunks with an empty trap, a surprise to all of us. Now, we were feeling strategically inclined. My husband had just gone fishing and filleted a bass. The carcass was deposited at the back of the trap, so that the skunk would have to go all the way in and trip the lever to get even a nibble. We had placed bait in the trap last summer and fall trying to catch foxes, in particular, but without luck. In fact, the fox had stolen the dead chicken. So, we proceeded to bed without any great expectations.
On the second morning, my daughter called me while I was out for a run. She said, “I don’t mean to complicate your day, but you have a skunk.” It was so astonishing the first two times. Now, it was a matter of calculated war. She inquired if she should call her grandpa again. I calmly answered “no.” It was time for me to learn to handle this.
You never really learn about something until you try to do it by yourself. Unexpected things come up and you gain a new level of appreciation for the help previously lent. Even as I went through the preparation steps, I was glad to have my daughter who, concurrently to acting as photographer, chimed in with things like, “You might want a stick of some sort like Grandpa used, to work the tarp around the trap.”
The tarp seemed to have more holes in it than I remembered. The area leading to the trapped skunk had become overgrown with blackberry vines and mallow weeds. As I held the tarp aloft and tried to move forward, the bottom edge and ripped sections caught on the pavers and plants. The wind was blowing it some, too. I was trying to find the balance between being a nondescript, non-threatening, inanimate object moving toward the skunk AND a person who could see where she was headed while monitoring skunk reaction.
In a stealth voice, my daughter spoke sharply, “Move back!” I backed up as quickly as I could. She had thought it was getting ready to spray, but then we couldn’t tell if it was just a variation of it’s movements to chew and claw through the cage. I started the process again and made it all the way to the trap. Right as I was dropping the tarp on the trap, the skunk sprayed.
I don’t know if a skunk can spray in designated amounts or if the skunk was a bit on the small side or if I had just smelled so much skunk lately that it was like having pre-dosed myself to avoid arsenic poisoning. I backed away some, but I wasn’t overcome. I took a moment to gather my thoughts, then went ahead with making sure the tarp was draped as much as possible over all sides of the trap. (I know, this tarp-trap vocabulary is getting to me, too). The broken tool handle was very useful.
I had carried the empty trap around a number of times, so I was startled with how much heavier it was with a tarp and a small varmint. Not wanting to hug it next to me, I continued straining with one arm held out from the side of my body and carried the skunk about 175 feet to the back of the truck. In retrospect, I supposed I could have considered a wagon, but I was also intent on NOT jiggling the skunk. I wasn’t interested in experimenting with testing it’s spray capacity further. It is not a smooth path to get there.
This skunk seemed more agitated than the ones my dad had dealt with, but maybe it was just because I was the one at risk now. I folded and wrapped the tarp to create as much of an airtight space as I could, using rocks, the broken handle, and a piece of log to hold it in place. I maneuvered the end of the dryer vent to make sure it was pointing right into the trap. I turned on the truck and went to observe the setup again. Then, I went in to eat lunch. I must not have been too traumatized.
Fifty minutes later, it was time to check the results. Fortunately, trash would be picked up the next day. All I had to do was get the skunk into the trash can. I gingerly lifted the edge of the tarp, really ready to drop it and run if needed. However, the skunk was at least passed out. Then, I thought I should wait a while and see if it was really dead. The first skunk had woken up after a while. Upon further reflection, I decided that if I just put it in a trash bag, it would continue on in it’s placid sleep, if indeed it were not dead yet. That would also make it so that we could let the poor dog back out into the yard.
I obtained the heaviest duty trash bag we have, the yard debris bags I buy from Costco. With the open bag well up onto and around the end of the trap that would open, I swallowed hard. What if it woke up all of a sudden? Could I contain it in the bag? Another deep breath, and I released the hatch.
It just lay there. At that point, I was almost irritated with it for being uncooperative about being dumped in the trash bag. The corners of the trap threatened to tear the bag. I finally managed to lift the opposite end of the trap up enough to cause the skunk to fall in. Then I grabbed the bag, rolled it closed and stood there.
Okay, I needed to double bag it. There was no way I was putting it in the trash can without tying it in, but there was no way I was unrolling that bag to tie those ends. My daughter graciously got me another bag. With it all tied up, at last, I felt I might be safe from the skunk. There was a moment of victory.
When my dad had helped me, it had never occurred to me that the skunk might crawl out of the trash can. Why would I be thinking such thoughts now?! I don’t watch zombie movies. But, somehow, in my mind’s eye, that skunk was in the bag, wildly trying to chew it’s way out. The next time I went out to the car, it would surely throw open the trash can lid and bare it’s teeth at me, 10 times it’s original size. This is why I am careful about what movies I watch.
Thankfully, the trash was picked up on schedule the next day. Even I have trouble being too concerned that the skunk can survive a trip to the dump and finds it’s way back here. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the neighborhood skunk watch (these have been very cocky skunks wandering around in broad daylight), is aware of at least one more skunk in the clan hanging around. My husband has kindly offered to go fishing to get me more bait.