Living in a city for the past five years, I had forgotten just how badly skunks can smell. But the woods behind my current apartment complex are full of them. A few weeks ago, an apparently angry skunk released his stench just outside my window and it was so strong it actually kept me awake. Had it just been a one time odor, I would have been okay with it. But I’ve smelled skunk on average three or four times a week since moving here. However, it’s never been as bad as it is right now.
Walking outside to retrieve something from my car a few minutes ago, I heard some rustling in the trees. Suddenly, out wandered three relatives of Pepe Le Pew heading towards the pile of discarded furniture and trash from today’s many move-outs. Playing it cool, I attempted to avoid these furry fellows as much as possible. But the neighbor’s cat, who was apparently hanging out somewhere nearby, must have had other ideas. I had already passed them at this point, so I didn’t see what transpired next, but the result was a loud hiss, a terrified cat bolting across the lawn, and one heck of a hideous stench.
I usually enjoy the outdoors. Really, I do. But I’m not enjoying this one bit.


6 responses

  1. I saw a skunk “in the wild” for the first time ever coming home from the Math Resource Center about six months ago. It was actually kind of cute, but I probably only think so because I was able to calmly cross the street and look at it from a distance.
    (And I’ve smelled skunks before. I’ve just never actually seen one in person.)

  2. Polecats are strange and interesting, both to observe-&-consider, and to contemplate as bold, closeup inspectors of almost anything worthy (within their high tolerance definition) of being considered edible, as long distance accuracy champions (take note!), and as major-vector carriers of rabies.
    Like the rattlesnake, the skunk has high tolerance for the proximity of humans and other living beings, but once provoked is perilous: it takes quite a bit of provocation to get a timber rattler to strike, but if at 5 ft. tottal length, he can reach out a full 2 feet to snag deeply. More to the point, the venom of cutesy l’il ole newborn rattler…is as dangerous as is the parent’s, and because it is “fresher” it may be more potent. The departing skunk, the sidelong passing skunk, the approaching skunk all have some things in common: 1) the ability to point hindquarters directly at you while walking that rolling walk that so amuses; 2) if young ‘uns, like the adults, their spray is not only as potent but “fresher”; and 3) they can “nab you” up to 30 feet away…or farther is the breezes are in “your favor.”
    All this to help you to better know your neighbor. And this to help you sleep better: if you simply draft in a huge breath of what annoys your sleep and through your nose about three to five times — grimacing if yo must — you’ll find that, like holding a bar of pungent soap to your nose, your nosebuds will “go to sleep” on that particular odor, overwhelmed by them…and you, too, can then drift off to Neder and Nod.

  3. I am clearly hitting the wrong keys more than I’d like to admit: aging fingers…
    At _6_ ft the rattler can strike out 2 ft and (yes) total is spelled without that dbbl-t in the middle (although I rahter like the insinuation of “…’to-tail’ length of” as in “head-to…”

  4. Perhaps I should mention here — if not for ER, then for ER avoidance — 1] that a) poisonous snakes, indeed no snake, “jumps,” although it is true that some (and only a few) do drop on their prey; and that b) no snake is able to “strike” more than approximately 1/3rd its length: they use the rest of themselves to anchor or weigh themselves securely to support the strike; and that 2) the porcupine does not “throw” its quills: you MUST come in contact with the quill in order to be done damage, although a) the quills disconnect readily for lodging (but are slightly barbed and so do not come out so readily from the creature who is snagged, which might be you should you fail to pay close attention), that b) the porcupine, if aggravated and aggressed upon, upon coming in contact with the aggressor WILL shove itself against the aggressor in order to defend itself by using its quills (I will ask ShaZam to mount a picture I have of the undelightful result), and that c) the porcupine is one of the most readily killed of animals: a flat board (or baseball bat, ER!) struck against the tip of its nose will fell it like a stone: use adequate stroke! (I just hate it when you say easy and so someone chooses the love tap, which results in a badly a) damaged unto mortal but agonizing death for the creature instead of instant deliverance, and b) angered, trembling, and apparently aggressive, fast moving, porcupine — one of the then most unpredictable of creatures. (BTW porcupines DO fall out of trees at the most inconvenient of moments: at age 13 or so I was almost the recipient of such a gift “from heaven” when one fell diretly between Jimmy King and I as we descended a mountainside. We, being foolish young boys, killed it — but good.
    Sheesh! it seems as though I should have been a wildlife biologist/artist.

  5. Thank you to the Good Doctor for clearing up that common misperception about porcupines. Last summer, I was hiking with my then boyfriend when I saw a wild porcupine for the first time. It, like the skunk described above, was adorable! It waddled along the trail minding its own business until I got a little too close (trying to take a picture with a camera without zoom), at which point it waddled faster. This was even funnier. We told my boyfriend’s mother about the occasion, and she gently chastised us for getting so close to a porcupine, letting us know that it could have thrown its quills at us. My boyfriend argued that it could not and I sat quietly, not wanting to argue with either of them.
    Last night I had my first interesting wildlife encounter since moving back to the Twin Cities from Duluth, Minn. About 20 minutes into a Minnesota Goodbye (which lasted a good 45 minutes or more), we saw what we believe to be a possum run across my friend’s cul-de-sac.