Skunks are cute little animals with bushy white tails. They remind me of cats. I love cats. I have five.
You rarely see skunks during the day. You hope not to run into them at night.
Let me re-phrase that, you hope not to surprise one at night!
Anyone who owns a dog and lives in the country around here has at least a few stories about their dumb-ass dog cornering a skunk and getting blasted by the most unpleasant perfume ever created. You have to bathe the poor canine in tomato juice or mouthwash for days to get rid of the smell, and it is really demoralizing for the dog to have to stay outside for days on end because you just can't let them near your furniture.
My worst fear, astronomically speaking, is to be coming out of the domed observatory late at night, where I have to lean over to get out of the door, and have a startled skunk raise his tail in my face as I stare down the back-side barrel of a loaded skunk who just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I'm sure Irene would make me burn my clothes in the fire pit, and there's no way she would let me in the house for days. She would buy the tomato juice, but I'd be standing naked by the fire pit at night, dousing my own stanky body and sleeping in the roll-off observatory for a while. That's one of the reasons I call it the 'doghouse'.
Sometimes it's easy to tell when a skunk is in the vicinity. The smell comes wafting through the dome slot, swirls around a little bit and then just lingers, long after the stinky visitor has passed. I found out not long ago that the skunks who smell really bad themselves are amorous males who have been rebuked by uncooperative females. Man, I thought it was rough in the singles bars!
Even more disconcerting, is the fact that sometimes what I am smelling is a coyote that had a bad adventure with a skunk, passing by in the dark.
Skunks eat just about all the things that thrive on my property. They eat insects, larvae and earthworms, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, eggs and moles (we have lots of moles!) They also eat roots, berries, grass, nuts and fungi. My yard is a virtual smorgasbord for skunks!
Needless to say, I am visited by skunks on a regular basis. Sometimes I hear them digging and foraging outside the dome at night. In the morning I can see where they have dug up little patches here and there, grubbing out insects or moles. Often in the garden beds around the house, but sometimes right around the observatory where the grass is thick and juicy with bugs and frogs.
When I first installed the dome, I laid sod around the observatory where the ground had been destroyed by construction. In the morning I would have to go out and turn the sod back to green-side-up where the skunks had come around and flipped it over to feast on grubs and earthworms.
I wouldn't mind the skunk visits so much if it weren't for the fact that they have notoriously poor eyesight. I've had them come right up to me, seemingly totally oblivious to my presence until the very last moment. My strategy has usually been to move very slowly, or not at all in the presence of Pepe Le Pue. I really don't want to get them excited.
The other night I was standing on the patio by the driveway, checking the weather and enjoying the quiet, when suddenly I heard the clicking of claws on the pavement. I thought it might be one of the stray cats who had been coming around lately (word gets out when you're a cat lover) so I was tempted to bend over and say "here kitty, kitty" when that unmistakable black and white pattern caught my eye in the moonlight.
I let out my best cat hiss and jumped back about as far as a guy my age can, knowing full well that a skunk can launch bad smelling anus juice 10-15 feet. The skunk seemed as surprised as me, turned around, raised its tail, and I thought "Oh shit".
Pepe just slinked off into the darkness and I was spared the humiliation of being skunked once again.
I've been lucky so far, but I can't help feeling I'm living on borrowed time.