Skunk Skool

I think I’ve mentioned the skunks before. One or more seem to inhabit my yard full-time, although I only see, hear, and smell signs of skunks now and then. We try not to bother one another. I don’t mind the odor (in moderation). This is fortunate, because I might have trouble if I tried to get rid of them. My shallow research indicates they have no natural predators except an owl or two, and I haven’t seen owls in my part of Berkeley. I’d probably have to moat my shed/office in steel to keep the little diggers from burrowing under it.

I read that skunks den alone except when dealing with babies. I think I saw a coming-out party last month.

It was a mild Saturday night. As usual, the main door to my little deck was wide open and I was semi-conscious on the loveseat I use as a sofa. I became aware of significant critter noises. I rose from my inclination and looked through the open door at a litter of skunk kits.

There were at least five babies. They looked adorable and curious. I was not comfortable! Curious baby mammals, just feet away from my open door. Little stinkers who probably had not yet learned restraint. I figured I was moments away from contending with unpredictable visitors.

I made some noise. They heard me and moved a bit in response, but not away. I made more noise. They made a little more movement.

It was a few minutes before they’d backed away enough that I felt okay approaching the door. I closed it from the hinge end (no way was I stepping across the inch-high threshold). I watched them for a few more minutes through the glass door, and then they romped out of my sight.

I was up early the next morning. And there they were. First on the deck and then under the trellis to the small patch of lawn. Now I could assess them. Six kits and here comes the mother too.

It was a show. For about three-quarters of an hour I watched half a dozen clones of that skunk mother, as they gamboled and investigated, grubbed for bugs and tumble-writhed over/under/around one another. The mother was about twice the size of the kits, but otherwise they looked identical to me. All glossy black, with twin white swaths on their backs and a thin stripe down each face, all rodent-flexible with semi-transparent bush-tails aimed at the sky.

There must have been variations among them that they recognized, but to my eyes the skunk parents had managed to produce perfect, precise renewals of themselves.

And to my observation, they were all perfect at being skunks. All seven creatures seemed fully and naturally occupied at finding food, enjoying existence, and avoiding violence.

I don’t think they returned to their den. When the party was over there seemed to be one more wrestling writhing huddle, and then the litter dissipated. I haven’t seen, heard, or smelled them since.

I hope the babies made it across whatever streets they found. They seemed so good at being skunks.

I wish people were as good at being people …

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