Now for an update on this post. I wrote about a skunk which had moved into a den underneath our porch stoop.
On May 28, we didn’t smell a “skunk bomb” in the basement at sunset like usual, so we hoped the skunk had taken the hint from our tampering with the den, and run off. But no, next night we smelled it again, and the stuff we put over the hole was moved again. We soon began finding all sorts of rocks the color of our porch stoop, surrounding the entrance of the hole. Hubby said it was making the den bigger–yet another indication that it was a she, with a litter coming or already here.
The presence of a litter complicated things: We could easily block her out after dark, but any babies in the den would soon die–leaving us with an even bigger problem. It’s much easier to remove living animals than dead ones from under a porch, and if the smell of living skunk in the basement was bad, the smell of dead baby skunks would be much worse–and could last for months!
Besides, even if we did block it off, she would probably gain super-skunkie strength and move the block to get to her babies. Because that’s what mommies do.
So I started keeping an eye on Mama Skunkie. Every evening around dusk, I could see her stroll over to the little cement drive/walkway out back of the condos. She’d follow the drive instead of cutting across the grass, probably going to the woods beyond to find food. When a litter of kits began following her, we could try blocking the den. We didn’t know how long that could be; information on the Web said we’d have to wait a few weeks before they were old enough.
But then, on Sunday, June 4, shortly after Mama Skunkie went for her stroll, somebody scared her, probably the dog that lives over there. And you know what happens when you scare a skunk.
The stink was so bad that even our scented candles struggled to fight it off. Next morning, the smell of skunk mixed with candle smoke was not much better. I aired out the house, but come evening, a fresh stink would fill the basement again. It was also starting to come into the kitchen, because the den was right below the windows on that side of the house.
We also feared for the structure of the concrete, with her digging all the time. As Hubby learned later on, Mama Skunkie dug into the concrete itself, forming a shelf to make room in the den for everybody. And if the concrete collapsed, not only would we have to replace it, but somebody could get hurt–especially the skunk family.
Monday, I called a wildlife specialist. It’s expensive, but I had to find a way to swing the money. No, the Humane Society will not do this job; they deal with domestic animals. The wildlife specialist uses humane methods and finds a new home for the animal, rather than killing it. I didn’t want Mama Skunkie dead. I wanted her frolicking free and happy–far away from my porch.
Around 6pm, I came down with a splitting headache and nausea. It was so bad that for an hour or two, I could do nothing except lie back on the couch and rest, kept conscious only because my husband needed directions for making dinner. For days, the nausea remained, until the skunks were removed. I strongly suspect the skunk smell did it, especially since I couldn’t get away from it.
Around dusk, food had restored me enough that I stood at the door and waited for Mama Skunkie to come out of the den. I could manage this because anything else–reading, watching TV–would hurt my head. My son and I listened to her dig and dig and dig inside the den, and saw occasional stones fly out. I waited for an hour and a half, yet she still kept digging, so I finally got tired and went away.
I said to my son, “When they catch her, she’s going to think, ‘Dang, and I just got that den the way I like it!'”
The next day, the wildlife specialist set the live traps. Hubby thought the skunk would turn up her nose and avoid the traps. First night, we got nothing, and I feared he was right.
But then Night Two came, Wednesday. Just as the night before, around dusk I kept the inside door open and the kitchen lights off, so I could check for the skunk without scaring it. Shortly after dusk, I got up to peek out the storm door window.
Before my eyes, in the dim light from the nearby lights, was a whole mass of black fur and white stripes, milling around and squirming! Three little furry babies were caught in one trap, complaining and trying to get out. Mama Skunkie was surprised and distressed, wondering what happened to her babies. Many more babies tried to figure out what was wrong with their trapped siblings. I loudly whispered down to my son, who was in the basement, to come look. Hubby heard and came up, too.
I’ve never seen a skunk family up close like that, and probably never will again. There must have been half a dozen babies. How did they all fit under my porch???!!! We watched in amazement for a while. Then Mama and the remaining babies wandered off for a bit, probably to find breakfast. Well, except for one who stayed behind, touching the cage, apparently worried and watching over its trapped siblings.
I called the wildlife specialist; he said he would come by first thing in the morning to pick them up.
I kept looking throughout the hours before bedtime, peeking out the window shades because Hubby closed the door to keep from surprising Mama Skunkie. Because you know what happens when you surprise a skunk.
Eventually, the others came back and crowded around the cages late into the night, playing with each other. Mama Skunkie kept prowling around the yard, looking anxious. I wished I could tell her that we would not hurt her babies, that they all would be together again soon. I didn’t worry about them now that she was around them again.
Before bed, I saw the other trap was now full. In the dark, I couldn’t tell if it was one skunk or three. I eventually decided it was three babies, and went to bed.
Around 5am Thursday morning, after dreaming of catching skunks, I woke up, went downstairs, and looked out again. In the dawn light, I could now see one cage held three babies, but Mama Skunkie was in the other one. The other babies were gone somewhere unknown. Mama Skunkie went back and forth in the cage at times, and slept other times. The babies in the other cage must have been asleep.
A monster-sized bunny lives around the house somewhere. She probably used to live in the den herself. I saw her in the yard as well, over by the garden, which is protected by chicken wire, but some of the plants poke through. She and her babies love the plants that poke through. Now she sat by the garden and watched the skunks in the cage, peering at them as if to say, “Oh, so they finally got you, huh?”
The wildlife specialist came in around the same time the landscapers came to mow the lawns of the condo association. I heard the whir of the trimmers come around our yard, but then move away. Sure enough, on Saturday Hubby learned that they called up the officers of the association and said, “We’re not mowing that lawn today!” They wanted nothing to do with skunks, caged or not.
By the way, a few days before this, we got no paper. I don’t hold it against the carrier, because I strongly suspect the skunk scared him away.
The specialist took the traps, checked the den for more kits, then left to “re-home” the skunk family. I hosed off the sidewalk. By the way, skunkie poo is black and smells just like skunk. 😛
Nobody knows where the rest of the litter went off to (the nearby woods?), but we’re confident they’re not in the den. Not only did the specialist check it, but we covered it loosely with netting, and nothing disturbed the netting for days. So now we’ve sealed it up with concrete.
Turns out other people in the condo association have had skunks living under their porches, too, so they could sympathize. There’s a small wood out back, beyond the school field, and you can smell skunks in there. I think they also like the milkweed I’m trying to grow out back. I had several beautiful stalks coming up big and strong–which suddenly vanished one morning. Something keeps eating it, even with a fence, and there are holes in the dirt probably dug by Mama Skunkie.
Before now, we had various animals living in the den: bunnies, small rodents. We didn’t seal it up because we never knew what was down there. Also, the inhabitants were too small to dig much or cause trouble. So we co-existed peacefully, and treated them almost like pets. But now, the hotel is closed!