Skunk situations

Skunk situations

Imagine that you’ve finally settled down on the couch for the evening after a long day─I’ve been getting up at 4am to work on presentations for upcoming workshops before I head to the orchard. When I get home from work I usually try to spend another 2-3 hours working for Runamuk, so by 7pm I’m ready to chill for a bit before I crash for the night.

So I’ve just settled down on the couch when my partner comes running into the house telling me to “Come quick─there’s something in the garage!”

Instantly the new chicks in their brooder out in the garage came to mind and I leapt back up to investigate. All sorts of critters would love to sink their teeth into a defenseless baby chicken, but I have a sneaking suspicion that our local skunk is back.

We’ve had some dealings with this skunk earlier this summer, when I brought my chickens─including one broody hen with her clutch of 6 chicks─to this location. The chickens were housed in the hoop-coop with a welded-wire fence surrounding it, but this skunk managed to get past all our defenses to eat not only the chicken grain, but all of the chicks too.

He’s been across the street too, pestering the hives in the apiary. I know for a fact it’s him because when I went to put mouseguards onto the front of the hives the bees began boiling out of them angrily, and I was stung mercilessly. I noticed a defiant pile of skunk scat left in front of one hive, and we’ve seen his calling card in other locations around the farm too. He’s made himself very comfortable.

As we were standing in the relative safety of the mudroom and looking into the garage for any sign of the critter my partner described what he saw as “some kind of white caterpillar moving around over there”.

His description confirmed my suspicions, but I still did not SEE anything and I could hear the chicks peep-peeping across the way. Determined to protect lives and save my investment, I took a flashlight and padded in stocking-feet out into the garage. I shone the beam of light into all the possible hidding spots a skunk might use, glancing over plastic seedling pots, grow-trays, tools, my squash-harvest, the stack of firewood near the discarded woodstove that sits up against the back wall of the garage─right next to the space we have sectioned off with plywood and cardboard to create the chick brooder─and I see nothing.

Just as I was about to turn away, the gleam of white and black fur beneath the old woodstove caught my eye. There he was!

In an instant I knew what I had to do first. I snatched up the McMurray box, still laying nearby and I motioned for my partner to remain quiet and calm as I stepped carefully over the wall of the brooder (keep in mind that the skunk is just on the other side of the cardboard wall beneath the woodstove and any sudden noise or movement could startle the beast and possible cause him to spray inside the garage─or worse yet─ME!). I collected the chicks into the box as quietly and quickly as I could, and when they were all clustered together I took them in the house and closed the door behind us.

We set the chickens up in a large box in the house where a fire in the woodstove had already warmed the rooms, and once the birds were safe we went to see to the skunk.

Back in the garage the skunk had abandoned his spot beneath the defunct woodstove and after a few moments hunting, we realized he was upstairs in the room that sits above the garage─the room that I use for drying herbs and flowers.

It’s a very delicate process to scare a skunk out of a building without getting sprayed…but we began by removing any possible food sources from the garage. Belatedly we discovered that a bag of dog food had been torn into and a significant amount of kibble was missing; apparently this wasn’t his first visit to the garage.

Once all of the edibles had been removed to the house, we opened the door to the garage, shut the lights off and called it a night─hoping he would leave before sun-up.

During the summer we’ve typically left the garage door open during the day, closing it only when we go to bed at night. But we’ve decided with the shortening days, increasing cold, and now with these unwelcome skunk visits, it’s high time to keep the garage door closed!

This morning the skunk is gone from the garage, the chicks and my Runamuk-investment is safe, and we have the chance to improve conditions and prevail against this persistent pest. All is well on the farm.

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Runamuk Acres Conservation Farm