Urban-Wildlife Interface 2.0

The foxes are mostly OK. The skunk nearly proved too exciting for a Sunday morning.

Look behind the chair.

Same fox, different view, still twilight. He’s playing with the remains of a squirrel.

I was about four feet back from the window with the camera zoomed as much as I could. That fox is too close and too blasé about humans. There are also at least two kits that have become equally mellow about people. They’ve come within three or four feet of me. Did I shoo them off? Not with the vixen standing on the other side of the street. I froze until they left.

So the foxes are a known. There have also been multiple skunk sightings—or perhaps I should say scentings?—in the area. I have not seen direct evidence of the skunk(s), although I’ve caught whiffs of them before.

That was… until yesterday morning at 0645. I’d already seen two foxes. I felt pretty wary, and for that and various other reasons opted to walk in the middle of the residential street rather than on the sidewalk.

So there I was in the pre-dawn twilight, admiring the waning moon and thinking about the current drought and rain-water run-off calculations, and looking left right as well as before and behind. And saw motion in the yard to my right. Something black. Cat sized. Then it raised its tail.

I froze, backed two giant steps, and froze again. The skunk kept the tail up as it trotted out of the yard, across the street in front of me, into another yard, under a car, and then disappeared behind a fence. Only then did I start moving again.

Part of me had wanted to do a U-turn and run north flailing my arms and yelling, “Skunk! Skunk!” But that might have startled it, and it was upwind of me, so no. How close was it? Probably at least six feet away, but that’s far too close. I’d be happier if he stayed two counties east or west.

You see, Mom and Dad would probably insist that I not re-enter the house until I’d been de-skunked, and we only have one small bottle of hydrogen peroxide to go with the half-case of crushed tomatoes and two cans of tomato paste. And Sam’s doesn’t open until ten.

Urban-adapted wildlife is fascinating. Until it isn’t.


21 thoughts on “Urban-Wildlife Interface 2.0

  1. Similar views for deer; when they come that close to the house it’s another problem. Deer pellets just outside of attached garage.

    Foxes help keep down voles, bunnies, and feral cats. If they’re too familiar, it’s a problem from their trend to mischief.

  2. I once read a Young Adult fantasy where a young man gained a skunk as a familiar. Not a “magical talking skunk”, but a real skunk.

    • Oh, the other boys who were bullying him got a big surprise the next time they bullied him. 😈

    • Zambreno, I think. I read the first book, never found the second, think I heard the quality suffered.

      I have fond memories of Stinker From Space. Where a Skunk was possessed by an alien.

      • That’s her.

        I’ve always wondered why a third book wasn’t written/published.

  3. All I’m going to say is that .22 subsonic ammo has enough punch and is sufficiently quiet that the problem can be dealt with, even in suburbia. That’s assuming that your local animal control won’t handle it.

    • The skunks’ den is probably three blocks from Redquarters, and I have yet to see them or smell them on my block. Possums tend to commute through, but the foxes are starting to hang around for the dead squirrels.

  4. I was in college, the roommate went out to the alley after dark to empty our garbage can.The alley was dimly lit, and a “Black and White Kitty” that was foraging in the trash can took umbrage at having our garbage dumped on him. Our kitchen garbage can took the brunt of the attack but the roommate’s coat caught some collateral damage. After I stopped laughing we started cleaning up. Much tomato juice later, and a few days of “airing out” both items were returned to service. New rule, no taking the garbage out after dark.

  5. In our postage stamp backyard I have been fortune enough to see a family of raccoons, a ‘possum, and at least one skunk. Of course they come because we put out food for the birds, squirrels and chipmunks. (I have dozens of bird and squirrel photos) We’ve learned to turn on the back light before opening the door to toss out trash, lest we spook the skunk(s). 😀

  6. Glad it wasn’t Rosie. 🙂

    We’re quite rural, and skunk-smell makes it into the sunroom built above the back deck. When our lab retriever/aussie shepherd was quite young, she had a semi-close encounter. Light enough so that a bubble-bath with baby shampoo did the deed, but she learned that black&white critters were off limits.

    The dogs are too old to wander, and we have real wildlife: jack and cottontail bunnies compete with the quail*, scrubjays and pidgeons for birdseed on the ground. A couple nights ago, our border collie was staring towards the river, and several deer (does and yearlings) poked their heads up the hill; 50 feet away.

    If I really have to walk any distance after dark, I’m appropriately armed and watching for coyotes and cougars. Haven’t seen any bucks in a few years, but there’s a small herd just south of us. They’ll jump the fences to go to the river or to much on grass.

    (*) California Quail (we let them stay in Oregon temporarily 🙂 ) have a cute feather crest. The main flock (about 100) must be elsewhere for a while, but we’ll get a dozen or three around the house. The young ones run rather than fly away right now.

    • At least your dog was smart enough to learn.

      My folks had a toy poodle that managed to get herself skunked *every* *single* *year* for about a decade. About 5 lbs of aggression unleavened by common sense – if she spotted a skunk in the back yard she’d run at, barking as loudly as she could.

      She spent every summer tinged a faint pink and smelling of skunk spray and tomato juice.

  7. First house we rented had an odd skunk problem, I thought– you could smell them, but it was on the wrong side for a good skunk habitat, and while some areas smelled like someone had hit a skunk, it was irregular and I never saw a corpse.

    Then we realized Elf’s allergies kept acting up– it was skunk-WEED, not an actual skunk…..

  8. Related true facts:
    Skunks love gated pipe.
    It is very unhealthy for the skunk to be trapped in the water-filled pipe.
    A frightened skunk will spray as long as it feels threatened, or until it runs out of spray.
    Spraying a liquid underwater doesn’t tend to work very well. And if the liquid is easily absorbed by surrounding material, fur for instance, most will tend to stay with the source.
    Skunk spray is not soluble in water.
    The most disgusting smelling corpses have spent awhile rotting underwater.
    It is not uncommon for a farmer to receive a very nasty surprise upon pulling the plug to drain the pipe.
    Such a surprise is much more entertaining if it’s happening to someone else a short distance away.

  9. Since we have a fair number of cricks and trees in our neighborhood, we also have a fair number of skunks. I don’t see them unless I get up early, and we don’t bother each other when we see each other.

    It’s actually not a good thing if foxes get too unafraid of humans, if you have any small animals you don’t want hunted. But it’s not a problem like coyotes or wolves losing their fear.

  10. Around here – SW Missouri – we need to be fairly wary of both skunks and foxes as well as raccoons because of the possibility of rabies

    • That’s what I worry about with the skunks. We don’t have rabid foxes at the moment, but the cases of rabies in the region are skunk, bat, horse, and then dog (in order of how common they are.)

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