Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Generalists

How many of you have met a skunk? I'm happy to say that I have and that we parted ways amiably, no sharing of odors. Skunks are an increasing fixture in urban environments. Even if you haven't seen them (they are quiet, nocturnal and shy), you've surely smelled them. Even with all the hype, a skunk will only spray if it feels threatened or cornered. If you stay still and quiet, the skunk will too.

Skunks are like raccoons and foxes, happy to snack on your compost and garbage and then head for a nap in your shed. They are nomadic and will probably not stay in your yard for long, which is a shame as they are very beneficial. Skunks eat small rodents and insects and include scorpions and spiders on their menu. They are not as easily startled from a meal as opossums may be and they certainly don't mind sharing their dinner. There are reports of skunks entering homes through the pet doors. They share a nice meal with the family cat, and, when finished, they sleep it off in a nearby closet. Skunks are also carrion eaters and will handle a road kill faster than animal control.

I remember opening my mother's garage one night in early spring to find a skunk dozing peacefully behind her stowed lawn mower. We simply walked away, leaving the door open—wide open. When we went back a few hours later, he was gone. Skunks are clean, gentle animals that never seem to be in a hurry. The hurrying seems to come from the animals around them.

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