When Dealing with a Skunk, Attitude is Everything

Mother Skunk on a daytime grass-collection mission

Skunk moved into the earthy apartment underneath our garden shed. The space had previously been occupied by an extended family of mice followed closely by Rat. No morally acceptable method that I used convinced the most recent tenant to relocate.

Earlier, I had concocted rat deterrents using hardware cloth—a metal grid used for a myriad of DIY projects. I folded 12” square pieces of the mesh accordion style and clipped the squares in several places to create rat-dangerous miniature spikes. I soaked rags in peppermint oil, which rodents are supposed to find disagreeable, stuffed them into the folds and placed five of the contraptions around the shed. Voila! No more Rat.

Shortly after Rat failed to put in an appearance, I espied an extremely large entry hole leading under the shed. The little metal accordion in that location had been pushed off to one side. Did Rat mutate? Did the essential oil create Super Rat? I waited. And watched. Transformed Rat appeared–much much larger, much much hairier and its dull grey coat had changed to a glossy black and white. I phoned the wildlife control officer.

Hundreds of dollars to set a trap for Skunk. More to come and re-bait it. More to dig a trench and install a rodent barrier—guaranteed for ten years against skunks and raccoons, not against rats or mice.

For almost two weeks, the spring pandemic prevented the officer’s arrival. For several days, Skunk had not been seen. When Mister Wildlife got here, I thanked him but said his services were no longer required. He explained that Skunk had two or three homes and would probably be back. I would take my chances.

One afternoon I spotted Rat, or one of his relatives, entering the large hole. Had the peppermint oil evaporated? Had Skunk permanently vacated the lair? Were the two creatures cohabiting? The next morning, when I went to to the shed to retrieve my gardening tools, a repugnant odour assaulted me. Fresh skunk-stench. Did Skunk return and evict Rat? How grateful I was to have kept my hole-digging, rat-hunting terrier far from the building.

I took no further steps to deal with the problem. Difficulties are created in the mind. not in the circumstances. If I perceived Skunk as a fellow sentient creature who wanted nothing but to be left alone, rather than as a mortal enemy, we could peacefully co-exist. Every day when I passed her entrance, I called out, “Hello, Mother Skunk. I trust you will enjoy your day. If your babies have arrived, keep them safe.” Then, I tied open the shed doors, and wandered in and out of the little barn as often as necessary.

Three weeks have passed. Never, by sight or smell, has Skunk showed herself again. She may have decided that there was simply too much traffic near this particular home and retired to a quieter den.

Rat too has disappeared. Although Mister Wildlife said that once we had critters under the shed, we would always have critters, I am content to bide my time and be grateful that, just now, the apartment is vacant.

Postscript

After writing this piece, I consulted the Toronto Wildlife Centre’s article on skunks. Apparently they don’t mind music but are threatened by the sound of human voices. My good morning ritual might have been what actually drove her away.

What a great tail on Mother Skunk!

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