by Libby Hellmann
There are signs of spring on the North Shore of Chicago: the cold is loosening its grip, the sun has returned, the crocuses are poking up, and the air is scented with…
The stink of skunks.
Those of you who live up here know there has been a population explosion of skunks over the past few years. There is nowhere you can go up here without breathing in skunk spray. Or seeing one in the road. Or hearing about the travails of home owners whose decks and stoops have been infested and their pets skunked. (You’re about to get an earful from me).
But here’s the thing. No one in authority is talking about this. There is a conspiracy of silence where skunks are concerned. It’s a massive cover-up. I suppose I understand… What would happen to the tony North Shore if it were known to be overrun with skunks? What would happen to home sales? Property values? Taxes? It gets even stranger. Several years ago there was a concerted community response when an overpopulation of deer threatened the day lilies and gardens of North Shore property owners. Despite protests from animal lovers, the deer were quickly culled. Shot. End of problem. So, why no response to the skunks, who are a lot more destructive than little Bambi?
This should be a no-brainer. But it isn’t.
Which means we who are afflicted must act on our own. And I have. I am waging war. No namby-pamby avoidance tricks like red pepper flakes or coyote urine for me. I am so sick (and nauseated) by the situation that nothing less than a full frontal assault will do. I am taking back my deck. And the air. I called the trapper.
He came armed with a trap and set it up just outside the entrance to the den. He promised it wouldn’t be hard to trap them; February and March are mating season so the only bait you need is a female.
Btw, I now know more about skunks habits and habitats than I ever wanted to. For example, did you know they rotate between dens? Like terrorists who sleep in a different place every night, so do skunks. And did you know that, contrary to popular belief, skunks do not ONLY spray when threatened? When a female wants to reject a male, she sprays. When two males are fighting over a female, they spray. And they have. Many times. Under my deck. Turns out my deck has been a frigging brothel.
So, we set the trap. Nothing happened for a couple of days. Then one night, I was awakened around 2 AM by – what else – the stink of skunk. When it penetrates into the house, btw, it’s impossible to sleep. Sure enough, next morning we had trapped a female skunk. (You can just see her in the trap)
Two days later, we caught another one. This one at least had the courtesy not to spray until dawn. The stink is still working its way out.
There have been no more for the past few days and I’m about to permanently board up the last entrance to the den. But it’s too soon to claim victory – my neighbors are still harboring the creatures, and skunks like to reclaim familiar territory.
I will keep you posted.
And yes, the trapper euthanizes them. For all you animal lovers who think skunks should be relocated to live out their demented lives in peace, I invite you over to my place for a couple of days. You take a whiff, then decide what course of action to take. Actually, I think I ought to invite Pat Quinn, Mark Kirk, Dan Seales, and all the village executives over for drinks, too. Then maybe we'll get somewhere.
What do you think?
P.S. On a totally different subject, if you're a writer, you really need to read this essay by Lev Raphael. It spoke to me. I hope it does to you, too.