Morning surprise


We’ve had an animal raiding our compost bin late at night. They’ve been burrowing underneath to get at the rotting vegetables in there, and then scattering them over the yard. This isn’t good. The bin is there to keep the decaying organic material confined rather than just flung about all over the place.

We’ve had this problem before — a couple of times now, we’ve had groundhogs living under our deck. We have a humane trap that we use to catch them and then we transport them a few miles away to somewhere near the Pomme de Terre river, where we release them. This is practically routine now.

So we set up the trap last night, went to bed, and bright and early this morning I go out to check on things. I blithely stroll out to the other side of the garage, and…oh shit.

I backed away quickly. I know that skunks can easily spray 10 or 20 feet, and are shockingly accurate (they aim for the eyes). They can also be mean little guys. This is about the worst thing we could have caught.

My current plan is to wait until 9 to call the local animal control office and make sure they don’t have a policy for dealing with wild animals in city limits. Then if I must I’ll approach the cage with garbage bags as a shield and open it up and let Pepe LePew go.

Lesson learned. Don’t set traps unless you’re prepared to deal with what you catch!

Comments

  1. says

    Yeah, that’s the plan. Approach holding garbage bags, throw them over the cage, then somehow, with heavily gloved hands, open the door and run away.

  2. maggie says

    Carefully cover the trap with a large blanket and wait a while for the skunk to calm down before moving it. In my experience, they don’t spray unless they are scared or pissed off since spray is a valuable defense and they don’t want to waste it. That being said, use a blanket that you no longer want. Good luck. By the by, tomato juice is useless. Use a mix of baking soda, peroxide and a bit of liquid dish detergent. It works on my dogs so it should work on people.

  3. Louis says

    Today in: Why I am suddenly glad I live in a country with no wildlife more exciting than a slightly moody squirrel.

    Skunks scare me.

    Louis

  4. says

    You can avoid this problem. Get a big galvanized bucket/small garbage can, drill a bunch of holes in the bottom and sides, and dig a hole so you can bury it almost up to the lid. The lids fit tightly and can also be secured by raising the handle. It should be impenetrable to tetrapods, but the worms can go in and out no problem.

  5. says

    My current plan is to wait until 9 to call the local animal control office and make sure they don’t have a policy for dealing with wild animals in city limits.

    Poor little guy needs help getting to church.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    In Sweden, juvenile bears may stroll uncomfortably near houses sometimes, but they generally cause no harm.
    Wolves that stray from Lapland may kill the odd sheep. But those problems are dwarfed by idiot dog owners who do not control their animals.
    What I worry about is walking into a big fucking moose. Especially a cow with a calf to protect.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    People in Louisiana and Florida probably have bigger quadropeds to worry about, both feral hogs and ‘gators. Pet pythons have been released in the wild and are now making the swamps unsafe. Add some radioactive waste, and they will get goddamn land sharks.

  8. dbinmn says

    My trap is for the annual spring inundation of feral cats, and I too fear the morning I discover a skunk instead. Good Luck.

  9. wzrd1 says

    @birgerjohansson, when I lived in Louisiana, the nastiest I dealt with was a 2 foot gator and actually worrisome, a cottonmouth moccasin. The latter convincing me to lug my rifle with me as I annoyed it from a safe distance (around 5 meters) until it left for the tall grass around the bayou.
    Nasty, aggressive critters!

    @Marcus Ranum, now that’s a catch and release I fully support!

  10. wzrd1 says

    @birgerjohansson, when I lived in Louisiana, the nastiest I dealt with was a 2 foot gator and actually worrisome, a cottonmouth moccasin. The latter convincing me to lug my rifle with me as I annoyed it from a safe distance (around 5 meters) until it left for the tall grass around the bayou.
    Nasty, aggressive critters!

    @Marcus Ranum, now that’s a catch and release I fully support!

  11. weatherwax says

    Back in college I was live trapping wild rats for my senior project. Came out to collect the traps and found one had rolled into the bushes. While I was pulling it out, I realized I’d trapped a spotted skunk. Instinctively dropped the trap, which caused him to spray.

    I threw my shirt over the trap to let him out. When I opened the door, he came half way out, gave me a “You better watch your a@@, mate” look, and trotted off.

    Then like and idiot, I put the shirt back on. Took some doing to get the smell out.

  12. Larry says

    @11

    The quadropeds that people in Florida need to worry about are found in Tallahassee

  13. lochaber says

    skunks scare me
    I’d rather encounter a bear.

    anyways, I’m guessing it was after the maggots you mentioned in the compost?

    Good luck, hope you avoid the spray, and please keep us updated

  14. bigzebra says

    That may not be a skunk. But that animal may attract a skunk. Allow me to explain. Black cats, surprisingly often, have white stripes applied to their backs entirely by accident. This is best illustrated in the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0znF_DMbUs
    Another common circumstance occurs when a black cat attempts to run under a freshly-painted white chair: https://youtu.be/U0znF_DMbUs?t=60
    And we are most familiar, of course, with the famous ‘black cat squeezes under freshly-painted white fence’ :

    So please keep in mind that this ‘skunk’ could simply be one of many black cats with an applied white stripe.

  15. says

    Only way to avoid trapping the skunks is to not leave traps open over night. When I was trapping groundhogs, I’d close it before going to bed and open it first thing in the morning. Trapping one skunk was enough to get me into this routine. I used a garden hoe to lift the bail on the trail. Skunk just pushed its way out of the trap and waddled off.

    Side note, it can be pretty hard to get a skunk to spray. There was a Mythbusters where they wanted to test skunk scent removal methods. They had animal control bring them some skunks and they couldn’t get any of them to spray.

    They’re actually pretty chill animals and very nearsighted. They don’t spray unless really provoked and usually cornered. They will usually seek to flee instead.

  16. says

    Couple of years ago I heard a noise in the middle of the night. There is a skunk in the middle of my freaking living room. Turns out there is a hole chewed in my dryer vent hose and a damaged vent cover. I lured him outside with some cat food on the back porch. I go next morning to fix the hose and there is a hideous stench coming from it. Turns out there was a snake in my dryer with its head chewed off. I guess the skunk had a little hor d’oeuvre earlier in the evening. Far too exciting. I’m in the high desert, near Joshua Tree NP. Didn’t even know we had skunks up here.

  17. numerobis says

    I had a skunk who lived in the neighbourhood at my last place. Pretty nonchalant, seemed perfectly content with its life. My cats would just watch it walk by.

    I have a racoon who visits my kitchen scraps bin on warm days. As in, the scraps bin in the kitchen (on warm days because on warm days I leave the door open to let air in). Came by today, saw I was in the kitchen, seemed a bit disappointed and went back down the stairs.

  18. Jazzlet says

    We put strong chicken wire under our compost heaps, held in place by battens nailed to the sides. It needs to be replaced every few years, but it’s discouraged the local badgers so I guess it would work for skunks etc.

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