The Urban Wildlife Series will take a look at wildlife we share our city with. This is the first in a series. You can view the others, as they are added, by clicking here.
I have a skunk who lives in my neighbour’s yard, under an old garden shed. I’m told by another neighbour that “Suzy”and her family have lived in the area for almost ten years. Whether it’s the original Suzy or not, I doubt – their lifespan is about 6 years. But a skunk makes her way around our neighbourhood at night with regularity. So regularly, in fact, that I’ve taken to saying “Hello Skunk” when I walk at night rather than recoil in horror.
To be honest, I have a hate/hate relationship with skunks, despite their cute factor. Because seriously? They are really, really cute.
Amazingly, there are people who actually BREED skunks on purpose and sell them as pets. Seriously, what are people thinking? This is wildlife. Wildlife that comes with its own smelly weapon.
Once, many moons ago, I was sprayed by a skunk when I left my apartment for a walk with my dog. Despite a liberal application of Skunk Wash, and multiple baths, for three years afterwards, every time it would rain, Mooki reeked. I had to throw out all my clothes I was wearing that day and have my car professionally cleaned. In case you ever get skunked, here is the recipe the Emergency Vet Clinic (yes, I called) will recommend:
1 litre-ish 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup Baking Soda
2 tbsp Dish Detergent (Dawn is the best, but any kind will do)
It’s going to boil up like a grade 5 volcano science project, so make sure you use a big enough container. Also, don’t seal it up afterwards or it will blow up because the recipe creates oxygen. It’s that oxygen that gets the smell, an oil based chemical, off of you or your dog. While it’s foamy, apply it liberally (and I mean liberally) to your pet. Avoid the eyes. You might need to do this a few times, so buy in bulk. And because I know, Shoppers Drug Mart on Kingsway near Willingdon is the closest 24 hour pharmacy to New Westminster. Until then, I never had a reason to keep a LITRE of hydrogen peroxide. Oh, and your pet’s fur may get bleached a bit from the hydrogen peroxide.
Skunks are nocturnal critters, and live in dens. They don’t hibernate, like I thought. Instead, several females will get together and chill out for weeks at a time in the winter, only leaving the den for food. They are omnivores, eating mainly insects, plants and small mammals. Right now, with spring quickly approaching, you’re likely to see more of them as the frequency with which they explore the world increases. They’re also preparing for mating season and in May, their young will be born.
Apparently Suzy really likes grubs, especially ones in my lawn. She has spent the past two nights digging it up.
The best way to deal with a skunk encounter is to back away as calmly as possible. Skunks spray only as a last resort and only if they have no other way to defend themselves. They prefer to flee rather than fight, and will stamp their feet to try and get you to back off. If you are by yourself, you will likely have better luck, because if you have your pet with you, chances are that pet thinks this skunk is worth investigating. And a dog investigating a skunk is certain to end only in a bad smell. If you have a skunk living in your yard that must be moved, call a professional such as AAA Wildlife Control. I’ve used them before and they were excellent.