Column: Skunk tale includes a classic lesson

It’s May? Already?

It seems like just a week ago the Kent family was celebrating Thanksgiving.

It seems like just a few days ago we were celebrating Christmas.

For a number of reasons, this past holiday season was different for my family.

Perhaps that’s why the past six months has passed in what seems to be the blink of an eye.

Looking back. It’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed.

It’s time to start thinking about my flower beds, two in the front and one big one if the back of the house.

Will I grow something besides weeds this year?

I planted ornamental grass in one of the front beds a few years ago.

For someone who doesn’t really enjoy more than a day or two of working in the garden each year, that was a great idea. I’m glad someone who is familiar with my laziness suggested it.

It’s not the pampas grass I wanted, but it looks OK.

Also, I typically get a nest or two in there each year. All types of nests: birds, rabbits, yellow jackets … even cats have been know to take a nap among the grass.

It makes sense. The ornamental grass is pretty thick and is a good hiding place. You have to look pretty hard to see the groundhog hole that has appeared in the back of the bed, under my front porch.

Groundhogs are a nuisance, but they are better than the smelly alternative … skunks.

Skunks have always been a problem around my end of Summit Street.

The old shelter houses were favorites of skunks. They loved the six to eight inches of crawlspace under the floors of those wooden buildings.

Nowadays, I don’t worry much about skunks. They prefer my neighbor’s front porch.

But a few years ago, they moved into a nice basement apartment beneath an outbuilding in my back yard. They’re not bad tenants, if you ignore the tunnels and dens they build. If you get used to the smell you hardly notice them.

Unless you’re having friends and family over for a cookout, and about dusk, a mother skunk and her brood of six or seven young stinkers crawls out from beneath that outbuilding looking for something to eat.

The hard part of that situation is is keeping my guest from screaming.

It’s bad karma to startle a skunk. I learned that lesson the hard way.

Some 25 years ago, I lived in a different house on Summit Street. On that piece of property, we also had a problem with groundhogs. So, it wasn’t unusual for us to have a trap set.

We caught possums and rabbits and a few cats. Every now and then we’d even get a groundhog. We never killed anything we caught, we just took them out in the country and let them loose.

Well one July day I heard that trap shut in the middle of the night. It was right outside my bedroom window. The next morning, there was this cute little black and white critter caught inside.

I assumed it was another cat, a big fat cat.

I was wrong. It was definitely a skunk. A large one.

So what do you do with a trapped skunk?

I called friends and relatives. They weren’t helpful.

Someone told me to call the police.

I can’t remember the name of the officer I talked to, but she had a great sense of humor. She sympathized with me, but she also said she couldn’t come and get it. She advised me to throw a blanket or a towel or something over of the cage.

Now, I’m paraphrasing what she said next, but it went something like this: “If you cover it up like that, they’ll just lay there and and you can pick up that trap and take it someplace and let it loose.” Then she added: “But if you hear that skunk stirring, drop the cage and run like crazy.”

And then she laughed.

I didn’t.

Someone else told me that because skunks are nocturnal creatures, meaning they sleep during the day. They told me to just wait until it falls asleep and then walk over to the cage and open it. When it gets dark, the skunk will awaken and walk out of the cage on it’s own.

I combined the two suggestions.

I threw a blanket over the cage, and then the next afternoon, I walked up to the cage and opened it. I even grabbed the blanket and ran … Just in case.

Apparently, my skunk hadn’t yet tired of the peanut butter and lettuce I used to trap him. Because overnight, with the cage open, that little stinker never made an attempt to escape.

After breakfast the next morning, the skunk still had not vacated the premises.

Now, I’m not known for my patience.

I unscrewed the handle from a big broom, taped it to another broom handle, and from six or seven feet away, I gently nudged that cage. Then I nudged it harder.

I rocked it back and forth and tried to roll it over. Apparently blissful with a tummy full lettuce and and peanut butter, that skunk’s slumber continued.

I wish I slept that soundly.

So I’m thinking, maybe it died.

The cage was still open, so I left it alone and went about my day. As it was getting dark, I picked up a handful of rocks. From my bedroom window, I started tossing them at the cage. If that didn’t wake him, he probably was dead and I would take it somewhere and bury it the next day.

But I wanted to make sure it was dead. I selected a rock from my flower garden. It was big and pink and had some shiny bits to it. It was a beautiful rock. It was a classic.

And I threw that classic rock at the cage.


But bad idea!

I startled that skunk alright. He moved alright. He lifted that tail and sprayed right in the direction that rock came from.

It’s quickness startled me. It’s spray overwhelmed me.

Stale stunk aroma is pretty bad.

But up close — when that spray is fresh from the tap — and you can feel the wetness on your face and in your open mouth, and it gets gets on window sills and curtains and bedding, it’s horrific.

It took several days to get that smell out of my house and several showers to get it off of my person.

The moral of the story.

Skunks will put up with a little rock and roll.

But classic rock makes then angry.


Russ Kent

Galion Inquirer



Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at [email protected] with comments or stor ideas.