If you’ve been following along with my story you’ve likely already heard about the situation with our local skunk. He─or she─took out a clutch of half a dozen chicks a couple of months ago, and since then he’s been terrorizing the beehives and digging up the lawn all around the farmhouse in search of grubs. This last bit I mind least of all, since the activity reduces the number of beetles we will have eating the raspberries and blueberries next year. I tend not to worry much about the appearance of my lawn anyway. But the chickens are a big and important investment for Runamuk, and of course I draw the line when it comes to my bees.
Skunks love bees. In the dark of night they will toddle their way into the apiary and scratch on the front of the hives so that the guard bees come out to see what’s going on, and then the skunk eats them. This can severely deplete the population inside the hive─a very very bad thing going into winter when every bee counts. Signs that hives are being pestered by a skunk include agitated and pissy bees that come boiling out whenever anyone or anything come near the front of the hive, grass in front of the hive may be packed down where the skunk has been walking back and forth, you may see visible scratch marks on the front of the hive, and you may also see dead and chewed up bees on the ground in front of the hive. Skunk-scat is a no-brainer.
So when the skunk-in-the-garage incident happened, I knew it was high time to take action. I retrieved a have-a-heart trap, took some of the dog-food that “Skunkie” seemed to like so well, soaked it in tuna-juice and Monday evening I set the trap right in the middle of the apiary.
I’d asked around a bit before tackling the job, to see what others had done with their skunks. Some people shoot them, some catch them then drown them, others perform what was laughingly referred to as the “drop-n-run” (you know who you are!). Since I do not own a gun at the moment, and since I cannot bring myself to kill another creature for simply doing what comes naturally, I chose to relocate my nuisance skunk.
I didn’t do the “drop-n-run”. Being perpetually clumsy, I worried that I would perhaps trip over my own feet and wind up on the ground with a skunk at my feet….
Someone suggested that by releasing the skunk in the stream he would be more focused on swimming than spraying, which made good sense to me and was the reason for choosing to release “Skunkie” at a stream. But when I got there, again I worried that my clumsiness would come into play. I pictured myself slipping on a slimey river-rock and winding up in the water with a skunk trying to climb up on me to escape the wet.
So instead I laid a heavy piece of wood on top of the trap to hold the metal flap open and the skunk waddled out and scurried into the nearby underbrush, relieved to finally be free of the confining trap. I admit that I was too worried about staying out of his way to take a picture of his release, but I assure you it was an inspiring moment. He and I were both relieved to see the back side of each other.
During my inquiries I was told that skunks cannot spray from inside the trap because they cannot raise their tails to do so. Well maybe that person had a smaller trap than mine and their skunk was not able to spray, but my “Skunkie” managed to spray at least twice while he was incarcerated within the trap. Once when I went to toss a sheet over the trap, and again while he was in the car on his way down the road. I managed to avoid getting sprayed directly, but the skunk-fumes were hanging heavy in the air as I moved the trap into the car and I walked through it several times; as a result my clothes wreaked by the time the job was done.
Amazingly enough, after changing my clothes and taking a quick shower (even though I know full well that plain old water and soap will do nothing for skunk-spray I felt the need to scrub up)─and a ride to work with the windows down in a very smelly car─the folks at the orchard said that I did not stink at all. However whenever anyone went to the break room where my favorite carhartt vest hung with my things, the full story was known, lol!
Don’t get me wrong─I rather like skunks. They’re cute, they serve a very important function in their ecosystem and they’ve evolved an ingenious defense mechanism. I know too that animals who are relocated do not have a very good chance for survival. Uprooting an animal and dropping it into unfamiliar territory where it does not know all the best places to find food or shelter, where there may already be a skunk in residence, leaves the critter in a precarious situation. But there’s a lot at stake here for Runamuk and every chick and bee matter, so he’s got to go. It’s some comfort knowing that there’s still a chance for his survival and I wish this skunk well in all of his future endeavors─so long as he remains far away from Runamuk.