Skunks in Suburbia
Posted at 12:44PM - Comments: (5)
One dog owner's musings on repelling bold neighborhood skunks.
Not long after my husband and I bought our house in 2006, we were introduced to another couple who, unbeknownst to us, shared our home address: a pair of skunks. They had a den under the house, and emerged shortly after dusk to wander through the neighborhood, foraging for fallen fruit from ornamental and backyard fruit trees, digging for grubs and worms in freshly watered lawns, and helping themselves to cat food on various porches where some people feed cats (feral and otherwise).
We attempted to seal them out from under the house, but they kept digging under the foundation. I bought one of those motion-activated sprinklers, that would kick on if anything crossed its path, and mostly managed to wet my husband or myself, when we went to take out the trash and forgot it was on. We consulted with a “pest” service that would trap and kill them, but didn’t like anything about that solution and declined. I actually used a cat trap and trapped one, illegally (and without incident, by the way) releasing it in the wildlife area a few miles away. But I kept saying to my husband, “They aren’t going to move away until we get a dog!”
When we first moved here, we were dogless. My “heart dog” Rupert had passed away a couple years before, and I had just turned over a long-haired Chihuahua, inherited from one sister, to our other sister, who has a thing for little dogs. I wanted another dog, badly, but I had to have my husband’s buy-in, since I was commuting a long distance and wasn’t home a lot. He really didn’t want to be responsible for a dog when I wasn’t home, so we were at an impasse for some time. Our second summer here, though, the digging the skunks did in the lawn and garden escalated. My husband finally agreed that it was time to get a dog to help encourage the skunks to relocate.
We got Otto in the summer of 2008. He was eager to join our anti-skunk campaign – that is, until he got skunked twice. And to this day, when he sees skunks, he will bark, but he will NOT advance on them.
I think this is a sign of his superior intellect. Some dogs get skunked again and again and again, and never seem to connect that stinging sensation in their eyes and nose and throat (nor all those baths) with that funny-looking cat that doesn’t run. Otto got the spray in his eyes and face the first time, and just a glancing mist the second time, and he has retained that knowledge to this day: he doesn’t mess with skunks at all anymore.
The skunks finally did move out from under the house. Maybe it was because I had broken up their family by removing the dad or mom (whomever it was, he or she was a big, mature skunk). Or maybe having a dog patrolling around the yard, even at a safe distance, was enough to get them to move down the street to someone else’s house. They definitely are still around though, and on mornings like this, when the breeze that accompanies the sunrise carries a strong skunk odor from somewhere on our block, Otto will invariably come inside the house and approach our bedside, whining with concern about the nearby skunks. I understand that Otto is simply letting us know that a skunk is out there; but my husband cracks jokes. “Don’t worry, Otto, we’ll protect you from those scary skunks!” However, he can’t deny there aren’t any more holes in the lawn, and I haven’t had to use the magic skunk-scent-erasing formula to bathe Otto since that first summer. So it’s all worked out.