Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Skunk in Your Living Room

When I was a boy of about 10 years of age I discovered a method of acquiring money. I had picked up a road killed skunk and having read that Sears Roebuck Co offered money for animal pelts, I skinned and stretched the hide and sold it for one dollar minus the cost of mailing it in. With such a potential gold mine for the taking I developed a trap line using steel jawed leg hold traps. That first fall I made $5 and during those depression days that was a lot of money for a 10 year old. Later my father bought me a skunk dog. Since that time I have learned that the leg hold traps are the cruelest devices on earth and should be outlawed. Moreover I have learned that killing animals for their pelts or for any reason other than necessity is unethical. After veterinary School and WWII in my practice I was asked to deodorize young skunks and developed a technique by operating on road killed specimens. It had been my objective to personally keep animals I was called on to minister to for first hand observation. I collected specimens of skunks rescued from sunken garbage cans and one brought in with it's head caught in a can. Many were caught by the technique called "Pluming" in which case you find a skunk and wait until it walks away when you can walk up behind and gently pick it up by the tail and place it in a cage. Done gently with a minimum of noise rarely is there any offensive odor. In all I ended with a colony of 32 animals. Among many interesting experiences one is more outstanding than others as it happened to Carolyn, my oldest daughter. I was operating on an adult outside my clinic and Carolyn was observing over my shoulder when I applied too much pressure to the gland and it ruptured sending the contents right into her eyes. She screamed with pain and I tried to apply wet cotton without success as she clasped her hands over her eyes. I phoned a friend who was Chief of pediatrics at a local hospital and he told me to rush her in to emergency room as she could be blinded. I rushed to carry her to my car for the trip but Carolyn was sitting on a sand pile digging in the sand, she said it only hurt for a minute. A woman phoned late in the day and begged me to rescue her as she had a little skunk in her sunken garbage can. I was pressed for time and after the 15 mile trip I opened that garbage can and there was a large full grown skunk. In my haste I drew the can out and poured the skunk as well as some garbage into the trunk of my car. The following morning my wife asked that the skunk be removed as she wanted to use the car. During the night the slunk had crawled up into some springs of the car's back seat and I had to use a lot of pressure disentangling it to get the creature into a temporary dog crate cage. The children played all around that cage for weeks until I began to believe the skunk must have been deodorized. I had hatched over 100 snapping turtle eggs and had given one to any child who wanted to see nature up close. Carolyn brought her turtle out to visit with the skunk and one whiff of the turtle and the skunk sprayed Carolyn holding it. Another job for her poor mother. Another time the head animal preparator of Yale's Peabody Museum came by and I asked his opinion of a possible scar over one scent gland that might be an indication that that skunk had been descented. Holding it by the tail with our faces close in order to look at the area I reached up and touched the area in question and both Raplh Morrill and I were sprayed full in both our faces. Members of the Conn. fish and game Commission were trying to discourage people from keeping native wild life as pets so one night I opened the cages and released 32 skunks to freedom. One of my clients had a pet skunk named Pansy. Somehow Pansy escaped and they phoned to wonder if we could bring one of our Bloodhounds to trail the lost pet. I explained that Bloodhounds are never permitted to trail any animal other than a human but I would lend them a box trap to attempt to retreive Pansy. The first night they caught the neighbors cat but the next night they were elated when at 3 AM someone heard the trap close with a skunk inside. The family of 4 were elated until they released the animal in their living room. The wrong skunk. They tried to coral the animal with card tables toward their sun porch but befoer they reached the door the skunk had taken all the insult it would and sprayed. It was a hot, humid summer night. When they arrived at a motel they were turned away because of the odor.
Skunks do make curious litle pets while young but if not handled often daily they my revert to their normal tendencies and bite when least expected. There came a time when I refused descenting skunks and advised folks to leave them in nature. That's a good rule for most wildlife although I have had a possum and clients with one for a pet rave about them as do those few who had woodchucks. I have never heard of a porcupine pet but they might be acceptable.

1 comment:

  1. Hi George
    I LOVE the blog idea!!!!
    You have so much to offer.
    I hope to see you soon.