Spring is in the air or What's that smell?
I’m writing about something near and dear to my heart—actually, it's closer to my nose. It’s now official, our friendly neighbourhood skunk has returned to settle in and raise a family far from the lights of the big city. I mean, why not move to a small town. Everyone knows about the housing crisis in Vancouver, the cost of real estate, and the scarcity of rental housing. I get that, but really Ms. Skunk, must it be under my shed?
Wait a minute, am I experiencing NIMBY-ism—Not in my Backyard-ism at its worst. No, I assure myself, I just can’t face another year of Ms. Skunk stinking up my yard. I know she needs a safe place to raise her family, but not here, not this time.
Last year’s move to combat our skunk squatter was, I admit, a little disorganized. Our strategy was sound, but . . . well . . . it didn’t work. Google is a treasure chest of de-skunking tips, some funny, some serious.
Skunk eviction plan:
Skunks will move away from predators—use predator urine as a repellent
We visit Cabelas and chat with the manager. Yes, they have some lovely Eau de Lady Coyote in stock. It’s actually a coyote lure, but I’m betting that to a skunk, it smells like the new upstairs tenant is a serial killer
I admit I'm a little worried:
Will I wake up to find half the male coyotes in the neighbourhood camped out in my backyard? Cue visions of coyote Romeos lined up with offerings of flowers and chocolates for a non-existent lady friend
Skunks don't like noise
We start a determined program of slamming the shed door and banging the wall
Ms. Skunk’s response to the stomping feet above her head is a bit of spraying, just enough to let us know she's still there
This skunk likes Metallica’s Seek and Destroy. Ms. Skunk is into heavy metal
Nothing says move along to a skunk like ten minutes of a high-powered fan blowing crushed rock through its front door
Okay . . . the leaf blower may not have worked, but fifteen minutes of a gas mower running above her den should make her see she’s not welcome
Natural toxic hot pepper sauce
There’s nothing like brewing up a batch of all-natural Skunk Begone
Hot peppers, pepper, cayenne, water. Boil it up, let it sit and pour it through the floor of the shed
Result—fail—Ms. Skunk likes it spicy
Blocking escape routes so there’s only one way in
Right. That’s got to work, although in retrospect, if we’d filled the shed’s foundations with crush rock when we built it, nothing would be living there now
Result—fail—skunks are very effective diggers
Skunks breed in the fall and have their litters in early May. Pest control companies won’t trap skunks during that time. They won’t separate mama from her babies, and neither will we
Result—fail—we couldn’t do it
Adventures in Skunkland
Our skunk problem takes a turn for the worse:
Skunk vs dog
Ms. Skunk doesn’t have a sense of humor
The neighbour’s dog discovers this when he plays a game of Charge the Cat with her. Unfortunately, he fails to recognize the difference between the Tuxedo cat across the street and Ms. Skunk
Result—fail and one smelly dog
Skunk vs man
Our daughter’s partner encounters Ms. Skunk in a brief backyard meeting. With the baby napping, he heads outside for a breath of fresh air. Hearing something behind him, he turns and find himself face to face with our unwelcome squatter. In a moment that can only be described as, “Oh shit”, he closes his eyes and waits for Skunkageddon. Ms. Skunk turns and waddles away. He beats a hasty retreat into the house
Result—I’ve got to call this a win—and a near miss
Skunk vs baby
Baby and Daddy are in the backyard. At almost two, baby’s ready to be more than an arm’s length away from the parental unit. Daddy is by the garden, while baby plays under the sundeck. An ear-splitting shriek alerts Daddy to danger. Turning, he finds Ms. Skunk within nice kitty patting distance of Miss Baby. Loud noises may in fact be a deterrent because Ms. Skunk heads for her den. Daddy grabs the nearest weapon, a soccer ball, and with aim worthy of his hero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, bounces the ball off the black and white menace. Not done, he chases the now wheezing Ms. Skunk back to her lair beneath the shed
Result—another win—but Ms. Skunk has crossed the line into enemy, not nuisance territory
Time to get serious
It’s time for serious action. We make another call to the pest guy. “Well,” he says, “If you haven’t seen her playing in the backyard with babies, it’s likely your skunk is male.”
Our daughter’s partner takes the Skunk Wars personally. He buys a trap, studies up on trapping methods and heads into the yard. Priming the trap with giant marshmallows (do skunks really have a sweet tooth?) he declares everything ready. At this point I admit to some skepticism at his plan to remove said skunk from the cage after she takes the bait. No, he assures me, the pest guy says skunks don’t spray if they can’t lift their tails
Two out of five marshmallows are gone from the cage
Four missing marshmallows
The cage is empty except for the thank you note from the rat and raccoon population. Okay, maybe not, but you get the picture
Result—fail and a population of diabetic skunks, rats, and racoons
Enough playing around
It’s time to get real and pay for professional skunk removal services. As we stand on the sundeck, staring down at the shed, we contemplate the final battle in the Skunk Wars. As if our thoughts conjure her, Ms. Skunk squeezes under the fence and waddles across the yard towards her illegal suite. We bang on the railing and yell at her as if that will magically make her go away.
But wait. The skunk really is a Ms. because hot on her heels is a black and white ball of fluff.
“Aww, so cute,” we whisper, forgetting she’s the enemy, worried our voices will scare mama skunk away from her baby. Another fur ball crawls under the fence, rapidly followed by another. Silently, we watch the happy little family disappear beneath the shed.
Our skunk problem has multiplied.
Is it a win or a truce?
As we debate our next move, Ms. Skunk takes matters into her own paws. She packs up her babies and moves out of what to her must be a bad neighbourhood. We block up the entry points under the shed and congratulate ourselves on the exit of our unwanted tenant.
Now as I sip my coffee, I smell the familiar odor of Eau du Skunk in the dawn air. As I look out the window and spy the familiar pattern of black and white stripes, Elton John’s: The Bitch is Back echoes in my head. Welcome to Spring.