Monday, April 19, 2010

For Pam

There's been no shortage of potential posts here. Just a shortage of time to write them. It is a busy time, filled to overflowing with mostly unbloggable things. The unbloggable nonsense is preventing me from blogging. In any case, I owe a post to Novel Woman. She is having a skunk problem. I am a person of many talents, some of them even useful. I, my friends, know how to trap skunks.

This leads me to a side question: Do you all have skunks in Australia? I was wondering.

Anyhow, so Novel Woman has a skunk problem in her back yard. Skunks pose an unusual problem because you just can't dispatch them in the ordinary ways. They make a mighty stink when confronted with things like sudden death. So the only logical thing to do is to relocate them. Gently.

Step 1: Get a Hav-A-Hart trap or the like, a cage trap. You want to get the largest one that they have. For NW, I would suggest going by this rule of thumb. Look at the trap. Envision your cat in the trap. Would your cat be comfortable in this trap? This sounds like a stupid thing, but remember this: No matter what, you want the skunk to be comfortable. So get the big trap. Really. Take my word on it. Do not make the skunk uncomfortable. The other thing to make sure of is that the trap has only one way in and out. Some traps have two entrances, one on each end. You don't want that. The skunk needs to have only one way out. Seriously. The other important consideration to this trap is to make sure that the door is solid metal, not screen. The skunk should not be able to see through this door. These sound like minor details, but they are not. Not at all. Big trap, one solid metal door. If the back is solid metal, that's helpful too. If it is not, you need to cover it.

Step 2: Get a large piece of canvas, large enough to cover the trap completely, except for the trap door, of course. Cut a slit in the canvas, set it on top of the trap, fish the handle through the slit, and then pull the canvas down tightly over the entire trap (if the back is screened, this needs to be covered also.) Pull this canvas tightly around the trap. You might have to make a second slit in the side so that you can pull it around the lever assembly that operates the trap (on the side), but work with it. If you can knit, you can figure this one out, NW. Take my word for it. Use a piece of thin flexible wire to 'sew' the piece of canvas together at the bottom of the trap. Just weave that wire through the canvas (punch holes if necessary). When you are done, take a look inside of the trap. It should resemble a small dark cave. THIS IS KEY.

Step 3: Take this trap outside, to your back yard. Bait the trap. Probably the best bait that I know of is sardines. Just open a can of sardines. Set them at the way back of the trap, and then set the trap. Go away.

Step 4: Check the trap the next morning. If the trap is 'sprung', you've got yourself a critter. Probably a skunk. If it is your neighbor's cat, it will be mewing and making a lot of noises that skunks do not make. Now this is the part of the whole thing that makes people very nervous, but you have to understand the mindset of a skunk. (The fact that I do makes me just as nervous as it does you.) Pick up that trap (and skunk) and put it in the back of your pickup truck. Drive it out to the woods someplace. Set the trap down where you plan to let the skunk go. (No, NW. You should not let it go in the lobby of Brault and Martineau, no matter how mad you are about the dishwasher deal.) Anyways, take the trap out of the truck, set it on the ground, facing the door away from you, and just work the lever on the side to open the door. Back away. (Go cower in your truck if it makes you feel better.) Contrary to what you might expect, the skunk will not be in a big hurry to explode out of that trap. The trap is safe. It is dark. He has not seen you. He has no reason to be alarmed. He will be studying the open door, and what lies beyond. Ever so slowly, he will exit the trap, sniffing about. Seeing nothing to fear, he will placidly amble off to the woods.

You have to trust me on this one, NW. Really. I have only been sprayed by one skunk in my whole life, and that was because we had set leg traps for porcupines. Yeah. I know. I'm not a fan of leg traps, but Uncle Sam didn't ask my opinion. In those days, when you were wearing green, you did not debate with Uncle Sam. You did what he told you. At that point in my military career, I was setting leg traps for porcupines who were eating portions of the buildings out on some of the remote firing ranges. In any case, there was one trap that had not had a critter in it after a full week. (We checked them daily). I was running across the field. I had gotten a whiff of skunk, but it was Friday. I was in high spirits. The weekend began just as soon as I got my traps pulled and the truck returned to my unit. I wasn't thinking. So I was loping across the field, and I got to the gully where the trap was. I leapt, and then realized that there was something in the trap at the bottom of that gully, and that it was not a porcupine. I understood fully the folly of not looking before you leap. Unfortunately, one can not change direction in midair, and I hit the ground next to that poor wounded skunk who let lose with a mighty blast.

Skunk is awful. I showered and showered and showered. I had only two small cans of V8 juice (note here: You cannot wander into the Commissary after being sprayed by skunk to buy yourself a couple dozen cans of tomato juice.) I showered and I used that tomato juice, and when I thought that I smelled okay, I stepped forward. However, for several days thereafter, every time that I broke a sweat there was the faint, but unmistakeable smell of skunk. Running PT? Pretty soon people around me were sniffing in confusion. 'Do you smell skunk? I smell skunk.' Take it from me. Skunk is not a fun thing to smell like. I much prefer sandalwood, thanks.

Anyways, NW, I would not lead you astray. If the trap is well covered, and it is dark inside, this plan will work beautifully.

I will offer up one caution to you. If you go out there one fine morning, and the trap is sprung and there is an obvious smell, and the trap is rocking back and forth as one very angry skunk shows his displeasure inside, I will warn you: this is not normal skunk behavior. Skunks are by nature, pretty placid. You may well have a rabid skunk. This might make you squeamish, but it must be done to protect the pets in the area. The wild animals too, for that matter. Submerge the whole trap in a tank of water, and set a rock on it. Go away and come back a half hour later. Yeah. I know. I'm braced for a flood of angry PETA comments. Rabies is incurable. The animal is going to die anyways. You are simply removing the disease vector.

So that is how you trap a skunk, Novel Woman. Truly. It sounds scary, but it is not, not after you've done it the first time, and realize that I am not lying to you. If you have any questions, e-mail me, and I will give you my phone number so that you can call me.


steviewren said...

I don't have a skunk in my backyard. I've never seen a skunk in real life. Nevertheless, I found this post interesting as well as informative and will mentally store the information away in case I get a skunk that I need to get rid of in the future. Thanks for the tip!

Bill of Wasilla said...

No skunks here. No raccoons, either. Or aligators, elephants, or kangaroos.

Debby said...

Gosh, Bill. If it weren't for the moose, well, you'd probably be bored.

Kelly said...

No PETA comments from me. My husband traps and we're talking leg-holds and conibears. Anyway....I'm glad you gave the warning about rabies. For that exact reason he won't fool with skunks unless absolutely necessary and then, only wearing gloves.

We saw two dead on the side of the road (in town) on the way home from church yesterday. Both had bright white stripes down the back which makes their pelts more valuable. (some are almost solid black, with very little stripe.. and we don't have the spotted variety around here) He suggested we could stop and I could grab them and ride home on top of the car. My response: ha ha.

J Bar said...

Debby, Rookwood cemetery covers more than 300 hectares (741 acres) and there are over 1 million buried there.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

A Novel Woman said...

Okay, right now, I can honestly say I love you.

First of all, I have TWO Have-a-Hart traps. I know, for a fact, that they are skunk size because I inadvertently trapped one. Plus one cat. And too many squirrels to mention here.

And yes, it sprayed me. But it only got my hands and I was wearing gloves so it wasn't too horrible. (The second time was worse. It wasn't in the trap, it got Buddy, and be extension, me. I smelled for weeks, and I had to go on an airplane, and then to my annual writers' conference like that. So I get it. Diana Gabaldon used my skunk experience in her latest book.)

Sardines. Check. Have a case of them in the cupboard. My kids like them as snacks. I know. I have weird kids.

I thought of using a piece of canvas (which I have) but I figured I'd put in over the trap AFTER I caught the skunk. Your way makes SO much sense.

HAHA, I already wondered about where I could release the skunk and Brault & Martineau was the first place I thought of! Might I add, I still don't have a functional dishwasher. I have a brand new one in my kitchen, and it looks nice, but it doesn't work. Still waiting.

Rather than wiggle the side piece, I figure I'll lift the safety bar holding the end to release the lock, and lift the door using a piece of string. The better trap of the two is a double door trap. Am I not supposed to use it because of the side piece release? Because it won't stay up without some major fiddling, and I'm not fiddling with a live skunk about to be sprung.

Drowning a skunk does not make me squeamish. What does that say about me? This is a woman who rescues worms from the driveway. I won't go into details, but you'll have to trust me on this one. And it doesn't take half and hour, more like 1 minute. Or so I've been told. Hey, at least I've never used a leg hold trap!

I think we must have been twins separated at birth.

Did you also know I'm a crack shot with a rifle? I've never shot an animal, but the first time I tried target shooting as a young housewife (invited out by a friend) I got an almost perfect score. Not that I would shoot a skunk. I'm not a total idiot.

Sounds like good advice. The only thing I'm confused about is why a single door over a double door, but I can figure that out by having another look at the traps.

You have no idea how helpful this is. I just spoke to my lovely next door neighbour, and her husband found a skunk in their garage last week. And my husband chased one out of our house when I left the front door open to put out the garbage, about 10 feet away. Crazy.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. (Love the video!)

Anonymous said...

No, we don't have skunks in Australia, thank goodness by the sound of it. When we were in the States I just missed seeing one apparently, for which I was rather grateful. I just cannot imagine how bad the smell must be, but am getting a slight idea from your descriptions. You have a few mean animals over there. We were told not to touch the squirrels either, no matter how cute and friendly they were (wanting a handout obviously).

NW, I couldn't understand why in a country that has open ownership of guns, they aren't used more. I would have, but do they have too long a reach in revenge?

BTW, what is the V8 for Deb? Antidote or something? Can't work that one out.

Think I'll take my chances with goannas and snakes thanks all the same.

But I think our fruit growers would like a few clues on how to move bats on please. They are protected here and can carry a rare but deadly disease - lissa virus - besides destroying the crops on the trees.

Good luck NW Barb

Anonymous said...

No skunks here ... although my kids would be thrilled if we did as Mr H thinks they must be about the best animal on the planet.... furry AND they smell.

A Novel Woman said...

Barb, I live in Canada, not the U.S. We have gun laws here. Even so, you don't shoot skunks for the same reason you try not to run over them with your car. They are very cute creatures, very sweet. You just don't want to frighten them.

As for tomato juice, a much more effective treatment is hydrogen peroxide (10% solution) plus baking soda plus liquid detergent. Still not entirely effective, but better than plain tomato juice. And it won't turn your white dog pink!

Laura Jane said...

Wow! You learn something every day. Thanks for the detailed description.

We DO NOT have skunks in Australia. I think I'm grateful.

I never smelled any skunk when I lived in Wisconsin either, but I'm sure its pretty unmistakeable.

Paula said...

Can't say I have a skunk problem - but as I have just been told not to shave or use deodorant during radiotherapy I could find myself in a large cage!! Ha ha!

You are certainly multi-talented!!