July 6, 2017
Sympathy for the Skunks
It's been great the last few months for us here at home, enjoying numerous sightings from a couple Skunks. They bless us with their presence occasionally well into the first morning light or an hour before dark. I've had some very close encounters throughout, sometimes leaving me frozen in the moment and it's left me with having a better understanding of these animals that so many of us fear in a "scents" (pun intended!). Nobody wants to get sprayed by one!
After dark I am out with a headlamp on just to help me not stumble upon one and startle it. It helps quite a bit but I've still had some very close moments where one has sent me a warning with some foot stomping.
I've noticed that the Raccoons can see them coming long before I can and they quickly react. I'm guessing they've had some bad experiences living outside with them, all fighting for the same food at times.
So ya, it's been great seeing them as much as we have and never having to leave the backyard.
Well, Sunday night (July 2nd) a smaller Skunk came through our yard while we were sitting on the deck and waiting for the Hummingbirds to show up. We have 2 Hummingbirds who are almost reliably seen in the last 30 minutes of light every evening. Anyway, it is quickly observed that there is something wrong with this Skunk, his back left leg is wounded as he is hopping around on the 3 good legs and keeping this one up to his body.
Since it was near dark, we got a few ounces of rum in us, it was decided to leave things be this evening. I left a message with Toronto Wildlife about what we just saw, asking in the message if there was room in the centre for this Skunk. It's a busy time of year for all wildlife rehab centres and sadly there are times when animals get turned away from the centres we rely upon in our area and we have to find someone else, sometimes much further away, who might be able to take them in.
We go inside for the night and go to bed thinking about that Skunk.
The next morning I get a call back from TWC hotline. First thing asked is if it is a baby Skunk. I said it was small compared to others I see but I am confident it's not a baby. The Skunk is out on it's own. It's not kitten size. What more could I tell them? No photo could tell them how big it is either. They told me that they cannot admit any more babies, they are full. Caring for baby wildlife is very different than adult care and with us just getting into Summer, I understand that their nursery is full.
It was ok'd that if I could catch the Skunk, to bring it up to them for assessment and determine the whole baby vs adult as well. If it was a baby and could not be admitted, they would help me try to find another rehab centre that could take him in. I had a partial feeling of relief. But I still needed to catch the Skunk before any of this came into play.
About 7:30 that evening I set the live trap out back. I set it near where the Skunk had come through the previous evening. I know they are creatures of habit and hoped for the best. It was just before 9 pm and the animal showed up. YES! I was worried about it getting dark and if 2 showed up around the same time and trying to get the right one into this trap.
I watched from a short distance away, standing still and keeping very quiet. I took a few photos of the moment, hoping it was going to work out exactly as I had planned in my mind.
Here he comes.
This is going way too easy.
Then he backed out and went around the other end.
I was communicating with experienced friends in these matters about the potential to get sprayed at this point. It was unlikely but not impossible. They gave me some advice which I took. I slowly approached the trap with a large towel, talking softly to the Skunk, letting him know I was there. This was not for comfort but to make him aware and not startle him. It worked. I placed the towel over the trap and then I gently picked it up. Then for my own security and peace of mind, I set the trap inside a bigger cardboard box. It was a double plus really because it made it even darker for the Skunk, and if he did spray at some point, it would stay inside the box.
I locked him up in the shed and felt it was going to be a long night until morning would come and I could continue with this adventure.
I woke up at 2:30 am and in a bit of a panic, worrying about him, worrying that he would not be admitted at TWC. Silly stuff. I knew he was not a baby. But that's a Virgo trait, to worry about everything at times. I try my best to rationalize and contain it but sometimes it can get the best of me and in the worst times, like the middle of the night.
Morning finally came. I was up way too early to do anything about this but it helped me prep for the day since time would be lost with taking care of him. I left a message with TWC that I had caught the Skunk and would be up not long after they opened.
I never checked on the Skunk. I wanted this to be as least invasive and stressful as possible for him (and me). When it came time to leave, I approached the shed and talked even as I opened the doors, I gently grabbed the box, walked softly to the truck, and the drive to the centre I did my best to avoid sudden stops, pot holes, etc. Of course there was no radio on. I kept the windows rolled up. I just drove.
Same scenario upon arrival. I talked to him as I opened the tail gate, grabbing the box and bringing him in.
It all went as well as I could have hoped.
The Skunk did finally "let it all out" when it came time to take him out of the trap. Thankfully those performing that particular task are used to this and well prepared.
Now it's a matter of a waiting game. And holding out hope that he is going to be fine and can come back home one day.
I know there are those who disagree with interfering with nature. I understand their side to it. But when it's happening in your backyard, how can a person look away? For the amount of time I spend out back, and for both Angie and I on the weekends, how could this be ignored? I can't imagine just watching him go about his life, coming through here, seeing the struggle and doing nothing about it. I'm sure he is in some sort of pain.
I'm no hero in this even as I overcame my fears of getting sprayed. Sure being sprayed is not fatal by any means but it sure would be quite a stinky inconvenience and I don't know anyone who wishes this upon themselves.
These animals that come through the yard are our "friends". They make our backyard a wonderful place to be. I hashtag photos at times #whygotothewoods and that is so true.
Someone asked me last week how I can do this. Meaning how I can work at Pepsi 8 hours a day, throw in an hour of travel time, but still spend time daily with wildlife. It's not just about volunteering with TWC, doing the Peregrine fledge watch, or the nest box monitoring, it's everything! Spending time with my Pigeon pals, observing a cool bird in my walks, finding neat insects in the garden as examples... any of these are the things I think about at the end of my day. These are the things that make my life worth living. And of course I am grateful I have someone in my life who supports this and likes to partake in these things when we are together.
So as I am about ready to publish this, TWC calls me. They are saddened to inform me that the Skunk's injuries were too severe and unfortunately euthanizing was the only option.
And for a kicker, the Skunk is a female and a lactating mother! In some situations, they would return the mother back, even with injuries, to help the young ones; but in this case, with how bad her injuries were, they could not ethically do that. They wanted to advise me of all this ASAP and put our eyes and ears out to the neighbourhood for any wandering babies in the coming days.
So with that, I'm off to check under the shed, under the back deck, under the front porch and speak to a few neighbours about also keeping watch. *sigh*
Now if that wasn't enough, Angie also contacted me this morning to tell me she is almost certain our old friend Fluffy got hit on Scarlett Road last night. Fluffy is a big beautiful Skunk and almost unmistakable compared to others. I went for a walk to Scarlett which is 12 houses up from us. I saw the body, but by this time it had been run over so many times. The back fur was still together and I saw those big white stripes. While I cannot confirm 100%, I'd say it most likely was her. Damn!
Thanks for all the moments Fluffy.
We had 2 other Skunks. One of which we called Lincoln. We can't remember why we called him Lincoln (Stinkin' Lincoln?) but whatever. Then the Skunk that went to TWC may have been him, who turned out to be a her. They look very similar with the broken stripe pattern along the back.
Some may think it's silly to name them, personalizing them, but when you see them so much, you are able to recognize them as individuals... why not? Pierre would certainly agree with me on this one (my near 5 years of visiting Pigeon pal).
It's not easy watching the wild world around us. Caring about all of them. Wishing they would just stick around our backyards and be safe. Moments like this, caring is gonna kill us; but if we don't care, we may as well be dead.
I did this blog yesterday and have sat on it, pondering whether I really want to publish it or not. I will (obviously if you are reading it) but I wanted to add some last bits...
I have 3 good caring neighbours now on watch for any little Skunks. They live a few houses away from us on either side and the third is at the end of the street. That's a good stretch of area that will be monitored the best of our abilities.
There is the possibility the young Skunks are at the age where they could be going out on their own. Let's hope this is the case.
If not, and we round up these kitten sized stinkers, we do have a place for them to go and be cared for until they are big enough to go back out on their own.
I sat out back for about 90 minutes after work last night. I watched the wild world pass me by as I sat on the deck. I had a few pleasant encounters, being a wildlife lover as I am. Here they are...
A big lone Raccoon who stood up on his back legs to give me a glance as I sat on the deck. It's hilarious how many of them do this.
A mother Raccoon with 3 young'uns. This is the first Raccoon family I've seen this year... anywhere.
They eventually came down the tree and the little guys started exploring. Now I know who has been dumping our flower pots every night this week.
I really beat myself up yesterday for a while about the whole Skunk thing. I chatted with a few people regarding it and everyone was supportive. How could I know she was a mother? Who would have thought to look? Who would have had the courage to try and inspect an injured trapped Skunk? She was hurt very badly, most likely got clipped by a car on our street and she was struggling, suffering and who knows how much more fight she had? The past cannot be changed. I must focus on the present and possible situation at hand. And I must remember that life moves forward. My sightings last night are a reminder to me about that.
Wish us all luck!