We should be grateful for new experiences, right? After all, they enrich our lives. Broaden us.
Even when the new experience involves a skunk?
Something was burrowing under the concrete slab of the farm building. The odor in the room above was unpleasant and unidentifiable.
My mentor on farming matters, Willie A. Williams of Macon — locally known as “Wil-A” — instructed me to level the ground at the creature’s entranceway and push the Havahart trap as close to the entranceway as possible. Put cement blocks at the other end of the trap so it would remain stationary.
I did as instructed, fully expecting within a day or so to bag an armadillo.
By Day 2, Thursday, I’d hit pay dirt. Initially I wasn’t sure of the identity of my muddy captive. A raccoon maybe?
I phoned Wil-A, who had loaned me the trap. He instructed me to cover the cage before moving to keep the creature calm.
Too late for that. My captive released his perfume before I could follow Wil-A’s advice, thus confirming its identity.
The fragrance produced by an alarmed skunk, in case you’ve never had the pleasure, is distinct and unmistakable.
I went ahead and covered him anyway and put the trap in the back of the pickup.
On the way to the release spot, a remote gravel road miles away, I phoned farm neighbor Mike Banks, whose wife, Terri, has a menagerie that includes an alpaca, goats, miniature donkeys, geese, ducks, a dog and a clowder of cats. Maybe Terri would like a skunk.
Mike declined, saying a young skunk had once come calling on him and Terri. The little fellow took an open doorway to their home as an invitation.
Mike said the youngster was friendly, sniffing his hand before Mike guided him to the door using a framed picture he removed from the wall.
“They’re good mousers,” Mike said, causing me to momentarily reconsider my decision.
I told Mike that the scent, so strong 30 minutes ago, had diminished.
By way of a warning Mike told of the pig farmer who couldn’t understand why every Sunday he had the church pew to himself.
You get used to the smell and don’t notice it, Mike said.
A skunk’s scent glands are under the tail and can be removed — not surprisingly YouTube tutorials are available.
Internet commenters on the skunk-as-a-pet question caution against it. One writes that removing the scent glands cruelly robs the animal of its sole defense mechanism.
There are skunk advocacy groups who believe otherwise.
One of these, Ohio-based Skunk Haven, offers skunk t-shirts and tote bags and conducts a Sponsor-a-Skunk program.
For $10 a month you can cover the care, feeding and medical costs of a skunk in captivity. A lifetime sponsorship will run you $1,000.
The problem with the Havahart trap is unless you’ve got a clamp of some sort handy, you’ve got to hold the spring-loaded entrance open with your hand while you release its captive.
I held the gate to the trap open and eased its occupant onto the grass.
Without a backward glance, the skunk disappeared into the high grass lining a drainage ditch. A few minutes later it emerged on the other side of the ditch and headed toward the center of a plowed field. The small creature galloping across the big field no longer looked waterlogged and bedraggled. Maybe it was the scent of freedom; the skunk now appeared fluffy and full of vigor.
Perhaps realizing its precarious situation — no shortage of hawks on the prowl — the creature reversed course and, still running, headed for a wooded area along a creek bed.
I stood by the side of the road and watched until it disappeared into the woods.
Birney Imes ([email protected]) is the former publisher of The Dispatch.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.