We appear to have a new, unwelcome visitor to Skookumchuck Farm.
I happened to go into the barn one evening, well after dark, to lock the chickens in after their day of free ranging. It was later than I would have liked, but everyone was home on the roost, settling down for sleep. I heard a ruckus in the corner of the barn, just outside the door to the coop, behind a garbage can. I baited under the barn for mice just last week, so thought perhaps a mouse was back there in its death throes.
I stepped out of the coop and cautiously peered behind the door, toward the corner. The rustling stopped. I held my breath. A nose appeared, and then a portion of a dark face. My brain couldn't compute...what the Hell is that? And then, I saw white. Black and white. SKUNK!! I whispered something akin to "holy crap," quickly shut and locked the chicken door, shut the barn door behind me, and ran for the house. Sticking my head through the back door, I yelled, "Paul, there's a skunk in the barn!!!"
Against better judgement, we grabbed a second flashlight and beat feet back to the barn. Paul went first, slowly opening the barn door and peering through like we were actors on CSI or something. We could smell the faint eau d'skunk, but we'd been smelling that for days. (Paul had believed it was the hay we store there. I knew that was weird!) We checked everywhere, hearts pounding, ready to run for the door, even made it all the way to the corner where I saw it (I had to see for myself when he said it was gone). Sure enough...it was nowhere to be seen! Given the barn door was propped open for the chickens, I think we can figure out how it gone in, ut how did it get out with the barn door closed?
We haven't seen it since. The next morning I could smell the faint odor of skunk out by Honey's dog kennel, but no signs of the animal. I thought perhaps it got run over on a nearby road. Twice Honey has barked strangely at bedtime from inside the house. The first time we ignored her, but when she did it again last night, we bolted for the door in our PJs with the flashlight to check it out. The second Paul opened the door, we could smell skunk. We looked and looked, but no sign of the little bugger! As best as we can figure, it was just passing by!
Chances are it's living under the barn. I've read that they enjoy not only chickens and eggs (my big fear), but also mice, and heaven knows there was a steady supply living under the barn until I started baiting them. I can still smell the faint odor of skunk inside the barn, probably wafting up from beneath the old, holey plywood floor. Grreeaaatttt.
I have no idea what to do about this critter. I hope it just moves on, like our Department of Fish and Wildlife information on skunks suggests. I feel a little less comfortable reading we have two species, the Striped Skunk and the Spotted Skunk (also known as the civet cat, if you've ever heard of that). The size and head markings of the face I saw matches the Spotted, which, unlike it's larger partner in odiferous weaponry, actually CAN climb well and doesn't move about as freely.
What are your experiences with skunks?
From the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife site.