I met some new millpond residents Saturday night. They were heading toward Main Street at 11:00pm. I had visions of carnage under the wheels of tires as revelers arrived at the bars, but they turned back several times because of the lights and noise.
I spent a couple of hours playing cat and mouse with these polecats as they darted for cover inside a wooden shed attached to the Old Town Hall, the raised bed full of shrubs, and the lawn between the Veteran’s Memorial and the Hall. As I did it, I consciously kept what I thought was a safe distance so I wouldn’t wear a new fragrance home.
The four kits are all individually marked so they could be easily identified if I happen to see them again by comparing these shots to new ones. They probably won’t stay in the area for long, however, although Wikipedia says they remain with their mother for almost a year if they avoid the usual traumas that beset skunks. These rodents rarely live more than a year or so and are crepuscular, most active at dusk and dawn. Mom kept them up past midnight on Saturday for a hike to fill their bellies near Main Street on a warm summer night.
Their tails serve several purposes. They make the animals appear larger than they are and can warn critters (like me) to keep their distance. But for predators too hungry to mind the possibility of a stink bath, grabbing the tail might allow the skunk to escape because the long hairs disguise a slender rat-like tail.
Bushy tails also mask the number of animals traveling together. In several of these shots, you can’t tell where one animal ends and another begins. The kits snuggle against mom as they move; the family looks like one animal instead of five individual dinners entrees.
Mom usually leads the way when the family travels, but the youngsters also explore on their own. One entered the Veteran’s Memorial and ran around the enclosed space for ten minutes looking for a way to flee without getting close to me. I was at the entrance.
He tried to climb inside the inset light (below, center) thinking the light was an exit. As he stood with his nose to the light, it looked like he was attempting to make a withdrawal from an ATM machine for critters. Eventually, he escaped my camera and ran in the opposite direction of where his family was located. I wondered how he would reunite with them later since he was 100 yards away when I last saw him. The moms probably hear their calls (or visa-versa) and they may be at a pitch humans can’t hear. Nature has ways to work out such things.
After the fact, I discovered I was within the range of mama’s wrath if she had wanted to spray me. Skunks can reach 10-18 feet with their rear end cannons. I’ll remember that at my next encounter. If you are less fortunate than me, the tried and true tomato juice neutralization isn’t the best way to rid yourself of the stench. Baking soda, vinegar, and mild chlorine bleach solutions are better choices for eliminating skunk odor. Read up on the methods now so you or your pet won’t have to wallow in the odor for the few extra minutes it will take to look them up online.