Friday, November 11, 2011

Living in the wilds

It is a skunky time of year again. I thought this old article I wrote about the vermin would be of interest:

In the past few years my family and I have become well educated on the vermin called skunks. From April to August of 2002 we had a family of 9 living in our backyard and under our home. Imagine waking up every morning to skinky smells and yucky mess in your yard. We used to swear that the skunk could tell time because she would spray at 5:30 AM every morning. EEWWWW.

What can be done?

Good question as skunks will travel a 5-8 mile radius and are prone to returning to their nests. If you decide to be “humane” to these little buggers and use the trap and release method; the skunks will come back to your home/nest and you are back at square one. According to our village hall you can contact an animal control company and they will assist you.

RIGGGHT.

We did as we were told and hired animal control, they were helpful at first…. Then they became as desperate as we were. This skunk was filling the trap with dirt to get the bait…. Hiding her tracks when leaving or entering the hole AND throwing the sticks away so that we could not find them. Smart skunk, trap savvy skunk…. We started to think that she was smarter than the animal control people were. We did trap a baby and the Mom came to try and get it out of the cage… I will leave it at that, as it was not pretty. In fact the owner of the company came out and told us to use straight ammonia and spray it in the hole and around the property line (my pretty house and garden reeked all summer long). Imagine in the hot summer sun beating on ammonia… and add that to the oil in the skunk spray. There was no escaping the bad smells at any time unless we left.

We also used fox, coyote and dog urine to hopefully rid us of the pests (hot summer sun beating on skunk spray, ammonia and fox/coyote/dog urine). What I still wonder is how does a “city” skunk know what fox or coyote urine smells like? This home remedy was not effective either; and at the time other thought I had was how does one get animal urine for retail sale. Unrelated to the issue but still….

Traps…. Any kind of trap… we used them and also used dirty little boy socks, moth balls and ammonia… still tied to the railings at our front and back door stoops. Finally we were so discouraged and disgusted that we were being reckless. A skunk can spray 10 feet and if you are allergic (as I am; I found that out when I was younger) to the oil in the spray it can be fatal. We moved the trap to cover the hole and then waited…. Our adopted family returned to the comfort of the nesting place that night. Mom and babies were trying to move the trap to get into the hole… we were tapping on the sliding glass windows to scare them and they ran behind the air conditioner. The Cuter half came up with the idea of opening and closing the garage door. That did it…. A baby ran into the trap and Mom followed. The next day the animal control person removed 6 and then several weeks later 2 more were found.

Most homeowner’s policies will not cover the actual removal or the prevention; however ours did. I think that the underwriter was grossed out when he came to the door and the smell hit him as soon as I let him in the house (he backed up a few steps). During future prevention and clean up time we left the house to stay elsewhere. The house was “ozoned” for a week and a week later all of the carpets were cleaned. A week after that the interior was livable. On the outside for future prevention, the animal control people attached a screen to our patio. It is 6ft down and 6ft out. We can still plant over it and keep it looking nice.

Skunk smell will still set my family and I off… we were not overjoyed to be spending the month of August 2002 getting our house cleaned to remove the odor.

The homemade remedies do work to an extent but it is still wise to hire outside assistance. If there are skunks near your home use caution they are rabid if out during the day. According to the papers we had to sign we had to approve the termination of the skunks and the possible testing of rabies. Skunks are considered rabid by most villages and counties. You are not doing yourself or your neighbors a favor by letting them go after you trap them. As cute as they look they are wild and they are dangerous to children and pets.