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.