Sunday, March 16, 2008
Bébé Pepés - Our Little Skunk Babies
So, we're pretty forgiving people when it comes to animals. We don't turn away strays, which is how we came to own Howard, and Schatzie and Baby Grey and BobCat and Cooper. That's our menagerie.
We also had a skunk, which some of you might be grossed out by. But I am going to ask you to put your aversions aside, if only for a moment, and listen to my story.
Skunks have every right to claim where they want to live, in my optimistic "tread lightly" philosophy, which is why we put up with one living under one of our barns. This was all good and fine, until Cooper came along. Cooper is the quintessential Border Collie / Labrador mix, and loves kitties! Unfortunately, Cooper's first encounter with the skunk didn't go over very well, nor did his second since he's not a quick learner. I am now a pro at de-skunking dogs, so if you're interested, listen up: there is but ONE product that works, and it's called Thiotrol made by a company called Vet Solutions. Ask your vet to order some. You'll be glad to have this product on hand late one Sunday night, because we all know dogs get skunked when the pharmacy's closed. Skunks know. (For those of you who can't get this product, buy 1 litre (roughly a quart for you imperialists) of Hydrogen Peroxide 3%, mix with 1/4 cup baking soda, and add 1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap. Ivory works well to mask the odor. Mix this only when ready to use, and remember to avoid your pet's eye area.)
I used to keep cat food in the barn, in a Rubbermaid container I used to tie up high over a beam with a bungee cord. Even I had trouble getting the damn thing down, but not Mama Skunky. In her last week, something like 10 pounds of cat food went missing. The old girl was stock-piling it. Then one unfortunate morning, I found Mama Skunk dead by the side of the road. I walked over to her body, noticed her teats and bulging stomach, and wondered if she'd had her babies already.
I sent Eric on a recon mission - check under the shed using the digital camera, to see if her babies were underneath. Now, the clearance under the barn is minimal, to say the least. Just enough room to fit your arm in, or for a cat or skunk to crawl into. Eric shot a few photos, downloaded them, enlarged them, and confidently gave me the all-clear. Ha.
About a week later, I was innocently sitting outside when a strange noise caught my attention. From under the barn appeared not one, not two, but FIVE baby skunks!
Now, you haven't lived until you've seen a baby skunk. If you think kittens are cute, well, I have news for you. Baby skunks take the cake:
I rest my case:
Well, if that's not the cutest thing you've ever seen, there's no hope for you.
So, you're asking, what do you feed them, what do they drink, where do they go, and do you still have them?
First things first: I gave them Friskies salmon tinned cat food, which the cats didn't like. I figured I'd give it a try and they loved it. I supplemented this with regular milk, and tried to give them fruits, but they weren't interested. We never touched them, because we didn't want them to get too used to humans. What's really amazing is they have terrible eyesight, but a wicked sense of smell. Sometimes, I'd hide their food and watch them find it. It was really amazing to see. They would also run to Schatzie, our grey mama cat, when they got nervous. Maybe with their poor eyesight, they thought she was their Mom? It only makes sense to me.
Observing these skunks was a great experience. We'd literally sit around and wait for them to emerge, mind you, it never took long once you put food out for them. Even Cooper got used to skunks, and would watch diligently during feeding times.
What's really neat is they're all different. There was one whose white was more yellow, 2 were bigger, 3 were smaller, and all had different stripes. Some were more intrepid, others more shy. We watched them grow bigger and enlarge their territory. You never knew where they'd turn up, but one thing was for sure: they never sprayed unless provoked. Eric did end up getting skunked once, but that was it. He recovered. And I'm sure it was his fault.
We spent the summer watching the skunks grow up, and one by one, they disappeared from the nest. We were hoping that one would return to the fold, but we remain skunk-less for now. Maybe one day, we'll get lucky and some skunk will choose our barn as its home again. Until then, we remember our baby skunks with lots of fond memories, feeling really privileged for having had the pleasure of observing them.