Often, I am inspired by other people’s blog posts. As I have said previously, they are my morning newspaper. Aside from getting a little voyeuristic peek into other people’s lives and interests, I am often reminded of stories from my own life. Recently, while reading the ever-funny Peak Perspective blog, I was reminded of something that typifies some of the interesting times in our family.
Those of you who have never smelled skunk, just haven’t lived. The famous cartoon skunk, Pepé Le Pew, was great fun. Pepé was a romantic ‘french scallywag’ whose odiferous presence sent everyone running, especially the objects of his affection. The real thing sends everyone running as well, except for my parents it seems. The American skunk is found in the ‘lower 48’ states of the USA, lower Canada and northern Mexico. Though, apparently, there are other similarly smelly creatures and relatives, like the ‘stink badger’, around the world. The smell of the American striped skunk is enough to make paint peel. It is unearthly. And it is almost permanent, taking superior powers of removal to get rid of it. Ask anyone whose dog has gotten a bit close, or whose car has hit one, when they are crossing the road. P. U.
I can only imagine my Mother’s reaction when we were young and my Dad rescued TWO nests of baby skunks. When he mowed the fields with the tractor, he would occasionally, unknowingly, mow over a nest of rabbits. This time it was skunks. He had seen the mother dead and didn’t know what to do with the babies. Coincidentally he happened across another nest on the same day–mother hit by a car. He heard they could make good pets, and never one to shirk a challenge, he brought them home, eleven or twelve of them, I think. ‘Hi honey, I’m home…’
We fed them with doll’s bottles of formula, and from memory I think Mom even gave them distemper shots. She was a nurse and had consulted the vet, who wanted nothing to do with them! When they were a few weeks older, the vet explained to my parents how to surgically remove their scent glands, because HELL NO he wasn’t going to do it!! My parents being who they were (adventurous) did the surgery under the carport. The scalpel nicked one of the glands in the process and it smelled. Bad.
When they were very young they didn’t smell much, but as they got a week or two older they quickly developed a distinctive odour, even before their scent glands were fully operational. And after they were fully grown, even without scent glands, there was an odour about them when you got up close.
Several of the skunks survived and some died, and probably would have in the wild anyway; but the survivors were kept as pets. Someone took a pair of them. We kept one, which met with a tragic accident when it was about a year old… Brother accidentally trounced on Rosie when climbing down from the cherry tree. Your basic back yard accident… step out of a tree onto a skunk. We used to walk it on a leash, up the street in our small town. Oh my, the looks we would get! Rosie’s brother, Skippy, got an unplanned release back into the wild after biting my Aunt on the finger. My parents kept it to make sure it was not rabid and then released it. It seems a cruel thing to do, given it had no scent glands any longer, but perhaps it found protection in a clan of smelly kin. But maybe he didn’t smell badly enough to fit in… there’s an interesting thought.
Skunks can be pets, the same way any wild animal can be a pet; but you have to respect them, they are still wild. They don’t take kindly to teasing and quick movements, or shocks. Nowadays, we know it is never a good idea to try and rear wild animals unless you have skills. Often a permit is required, as well… and always, always an understanding spouse!