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“That Wasn’t a Squirrel”

One day Mili the Dog was out barking up a storm.  I assumed she was after a squirrel.  Then the barking changed tone- she had something cornered or trapped.  Curious, I look out the window.  She was running from end to end on a ten-foot length of six inch irrigation pipe, barking excitedly.

Ah ha!  She’s got a squirrel in the pipe!

Hunting rodents is her life passion, I’m not opposed to indulging her hunting instincts, especially when the squirrels eat all the fruit and nuts off my trees every year.  I’m also quite fond of deep-fried squirrel nuggets.
So I dash out there and peak into the pipe.  Indeed, a bushy tail twitches on the far end in the dim light.  Silly squirrel, it should’ve gone up a tree, not into a pipe!  I lift one end of the pipe and proceed to walk the pipe upright, Mili waiting eagerly on the other end, braced for the fluffy critter to plop out.

And it did.

A gigantic skunk came tumbling out of the pipe.

I was still processing what I was seeing when Mili pounced on it, not five feet from me, still hoisting the pipe aloft.  She did her signature rib-chomp-and-toss skunk move, but the skunk was too big to take out with a single chomp.  It sprayed her in the mouth, and by extension… me.
Still holding the pipe up and not realizing it, I watch the skunk amble toward me, stamping his feet.

Me:  “Mili!  GET IT! GET IT!  C’MON, GET IT!
Mili:  “I just got sprayed in the mouth, yo.  You get it while I eat dirt and drink the entire irrigation ditch.
The skunk stomps past me threateningly, now sporting a pronounced hobbling limp.  I finally put the pipe down.  I ran inside for the .22 but by the time I came back outside the skunk was long gone and Mili was still raking dirt through her teeth to remove the oils from her palate.
And so he got away.  And I stunk.  And my dog stunk.  And the de-skunking commenced.
But the next day I smell fresh skunk spray next to the house.  I dash outside with the .22, but I see no skunk.  And again this happened several days in a row.  Finally one day I bump into my neighbor.  She complained about this darn skunk that’s holed up under her shed for some reason.  Apparently every time it heard a dog bark it sprayed, right there in the hole under the shed.  Everything in her shed wreaked.
She had attempted to starve it by blocking the exit hole.  It retaliated by tunneling out the other side, but there was asphalt pavement on the front side of the shed, and now the asphalt was crumbling inward into the skunk’s filed escape tunnel.  At her wit’s end, she stuffed moth balls and anything that might be poisonous into the hole and re-sealed it.

The skunk smell slowly faded.  We assumed her success and rejoiced an end to the daily respiratory assaults.
A few weeks later I visit a neighboring goat farm for some idle banter.  We discussed chickens for a bit and she said, “Yeah the egg farm next door has been having a rough go of it.  Apparently they have a big skunk stealing all of their eggs.”
I paused.  “A big skunk?  When did it show up?
Her: “Oh, a couple weeks ago.  I saw it out here just the other day in broad daylight!
Me: “Does walk like this with a funny limp?”  I proceeded to mimic the rhythmic, rolling limp of my giant pipe skunk.
Her: “Yeah.  Why?
Me: “That’s our skunk.  We thought it was dead…”  I proceeded to fill her in on the skunk drama of the previous weeks and wished her the best of luck with the new, stinky neighbor.
A note on skunks:
I have no ill will towards skunks.  Frankly I hate having to kill them and I rarely utilize their carcasses due to their smell, which makes killing them even worse.  Skunks make terrible neighbors.  We can coexist with coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and all manner of predators.  But skunks are impossible.  There will be no end to the skunk spray on the dogs, on the cats, on the cars, in the barn, under the porch, in the chicken coop, in your home, and on your clothes.  It’s miserable.
Skunks have also been the biggest predator of my birds, hands-down.  I have lost hundreds of young birds (who still roost on the ground) to skunks, amounting to thousands of dollars in losses.  It’s awful waking up to find a pile of 10-20 dead birds, each one headless.  They are also chronic egg thieves if they can reach your eggs.
So of all the predators I’ve shared my space with, skunks are the one animal that cause me to instantly reach for the .22.  They are relatively fearless; they will not move along if you try to scare them.  They will come to your front porch or your barnyard and move right in, even if they have to spray you and the dogs every single day to try and claim their new home.  They will confidently browse your barnyard in a way other predators won’t, because other predators have healthy fears of you and your dogs.  A skunk will just walk past you in broad daylight, “Hey, don’t mind me, just gonna go eat some more birds.  Come any closer and I’ll shoot.”
It’s just not worth living with!