Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Regarding Skunks

Wild Plants and Wooly Bears

Sometimes, serendipity strikes with a vengeance. Last night, I went to bed perplexed. A local historical society had asked me to be the speaker at their monthly meeting. I asked the caller, “What do you want me to talk about?”

“Oh, animals I guess. You know, the stuff you write about.” Well, that certainly left lots of room for interpretation. What animals would I highlight and what would I say about them?

So while lying in bed, tossing and turning, the answer came and not in a way that I had expected or appreciated. Pungency assailed my nostrils and for a brief moment, I wondered what it was. And then the answer became patently clear.

It was a skunk. Or skunks. I had heard, off and on, sporadic thumping and crashing coming from the crawl space under my house. I fervently hoped it wasn’t a skunk, but hoping never accomplishes much.

Skunks seek abandoned buildings for their winter dens, so my field guide to mammals says. Apparently skunks can’t read, because my house is not abandoned. In fact, I live in it. Nonetheless, the skunk, or skunks, selected it for a place to spend the winter.

Skunks do not hibernate, but instead lay low, lethargic from the cold. They get up and walk around on warm nights in winter and that accounts for the bumps and thumps at odd hours of the night.

Also, skunks mate in March. So that answers the second question. “My” skunk was undoubtedly a female and she was not 100 percent amenable to her suitor’s advances. Which is why she sprayed.

So now I head off to deliver my talk, no doubt reeking of skunk but suitably armed with material for my lecture. Funny how things go, hey?

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